Citizens are advocating for women’s rights in Paraguay after decades of mistreatment. In 1992, Paraguay’s National Constitution introduced a policy supporting equality and denouncing discrimination, stating, “Men and women have equal civil, political, social, and cultural rights.” Paraguay is progressing toward gender equality; however, the lack of enforced legislation leaves women to fight for their own rights.
The national and local governments lack representation for women. Yet there is no lack of women participating in democracy, considering 57% of those eligible voted in the 2021 election, just more than equal to the 56% of eligible men. Women desire to run for office but face gender stereotypes from political opponents trying to discredit their capabilities. Women hold only 15% of political seats, making it hard to advance women’s rights in Paraguay.
To combat the gap in representation, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) introduced the Political Training School for Women Leaders of the Superior Court of Electoral Justice in 2017. The program collaborates with women’s organizations, such as the Ministry of Women, to train and educate more than 700 students. There are 17 modules specializing in different skill sets needed to run for office, including information about electoral processes and the inner workings of the Senate.
The Political Training School’s success earned them an Honorable Mention for gender equality in the first edition of the Global Network on Electoral Justice Awards. The courses are non-partisan to encourage women from any political party to participate. Introducing more women to politics in Paraguay improves legislation on gender equality and paves the way for the next generation of women.
Paraguay is a middle-income country, with 22.6% of the population living in poverty and 10.5% in extreme poverty. Only 62% of women have a job that provides income, and that reduces to about 50% for women living in poverty. Those employed make 71% of the monthly wages of their male coworkers.
Responsibilities at home restrict women’s ability to earn money because unpaid domestic tasks are their primary responsibility. Societal beliefs impact girls at a young age, and their community expects them to continue their unpaid work indefinitely. The World Bank found “33.8% of Paraguayan women ages 15-29 do not work or study (compared with 6.1% of boys)” because young women work inside the home rather than making money in the workforce.
To address inequalities for the 32% of the population that live in rural areas, Paraguay implemented the Public Policy Law for Rural Women. The law targets women who are homemakers and reliant on their partners. More than 1,000 rural women learned agricultural techniques, giving them personal and financial freedom.
The World Bank recognizes that “the COVID-19 pandemic has undone women’s progress from numerous dimensions but mainly in the economic sphere.” At the beginning of the pandemic, waves of unemployment affected the workers of Paraguay. However, this disproportionally impacted women, with more than 50% losing their jobs, compared to 35% for men.
While women in the workplace experienced unemployment rates above 10%, the pandemic also impacted women who do unpaid work. They are responsible for domestic chores and therefore do not have many opportunities to improve their situation. Their days are spent working at home, with no time to get a job that provides an income.
During the pandemic, domestic disputes increased due to working spouses being home more often with their stay-at-home wives. According to the World Bank, “The Ministry of Women’s emergency services registered 50% more calls in March 2020, compared to the same month of the previous year.” The numerous reports are just one example of how COVID-19 negatively affected women’s rights in Paraguay.
Women’s rights in Paraguay have greatly improved since declaring equality in 1992. While the pandemic created setbacks for gender equality, organizations, such as IDEA and the EU, introduced educational programs and strategies to provide access for women who want to get involved in their communities. Spreading awareness to girls about stereotypical gender roles and how to overcome them is the next step toward gender equality. Spending more time outside the home creates opportunities for young women to become independent and active in the women’s rights movement. Progress continues as the programs advancing women’s rights today will inspire the next generation.
– Diana Grant