2018 saw the emergence of large social movements and institutional initiatives worldwide that helped give visibility to the different challenges women face in the world today. One of them was 8M (known as the International Women’s Strike), a day devoted, among other things, to recognize the need to end all gender gaps in the labor market and enhance women’s leadership in decision-making in the public and private spheres.
In line with these movements and initiatives, and with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Economic Forum and the country’s Vice president, Panama launched the Gender Parity Initiative (GPI) in July of last year, a pioneering project where the public and private sector join forces, along with the main multilateral agencies operating in our country.
We spoke with Irene Perurena, Executive Vice President of the City of Knowledge Foundation, about the challenges women face in Panama and about the initiative’s objectives. Perurena leads this initiative at the Foundation at a key moment, as the organization has temporarily assumed the GPI’s Technical Secretariat.
First, can you explain what the GPI is?
Gender Parity Initiatives (GPIs) are high-level public-private alliances, aiming to promote strategies to close the economic gender gaps in the participating countries. Its strategy is centered on three objectives: increase women’s labor participation, make visible and reduce gender wage gaps and promote female participation in leadership positions.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) initiated these in 2012, and Japan, Turkey and the Republic of Korea were the first nations to apply these initiatives. In 2016, the IDB reached an agreement with the WEF to extend this movement to our region and, thus, Chile, Argentina and Panama become pioneers in its implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are also launching their own GPIs – taking advantage of the lessons learned from Panama – which shows to what extent the formula has been a success.
What do you think makes the GPI a successful formula?
Three factors, fundamentally. Firstly, the constitution of an alliance where its actors have the capacity to intervene to effectively close the identified gaps. The challenge is great and no single entity, whether it be from the public sector, the private sector or from international cooperation alone, can change the situation by themselves. All parties have to add proposals, perspectives, energy and resources; this common work space is precisely what the GPI offers through the creation of its Leadership Group and Strategic Committee.
The second key factor is knowledge. There can be no transformation unless it begins with a solid diagnosis as starting point, this diagnosis is of initiative’s pillars, upon which we model a shared story and make decisions based on objectivity and truth.
And the third is the participatory construction of a three-year action plan, a plan that must be comprehensive but also concrete, reviewable and with results that can be further measured.
In Panama, who makes up this alliance?
In total, it’s made up of nine public institutions (the country’s Vice-Presidency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development, INAMU, AMPYME, the Panama Canal Authority, the Superintendence of the Securities Market, SENACYT and INADEH), the leaders of seven business groups or private companies (Grupo Motta, Procter & Gamble, Banistmo, Empresas Bern, Stratego, Tecnasa and Grupo VerdeAzul), five economic and social organizations (CONEP, APEDE, SUMARSE, WCD and City of Knowledge Foundation) and three international organizations (UNDP, UN Women and ILO), in addition to the IDB, of course.
This partnership is, quite possibly, the broadest and most ambitious platform that has been created in the country to work towards genuinely inclusive development.
One aspect where Panama has trailblazed is the fact that the alliance has been made official in the country through the creation of the National Council for Gender Parity, through two Executive Decrees: Decree No. 236 of July 11, 2018 and the Decree No. 624 of October 17, 2018. The latter designates, as of May of the present year, the City of Knowledge Foundation as Technical Secretariat of the GPI and the Council’s, in order to guarantee the continuity of the process in this delicate moment of government transition.
You spoke before of the importance of an action plan, could you tell us what kind of measures are part of Panama’s plan?
Well, I would say that Panama’s plan is the most complete program among those launched in the region, probably due to the extension and depth of the alliance established in the country. It is comprised of 12 measures and 59 actions, ranging from promoting job opportunities for young women and women in conditions of greater vulnerability, to the implementation of equality measures within companies.
The interesting thing is that the Plan for Panama’s GPI has become a platform which, together with new actions, has managed to place under the same “meta-strategy”, the different initiatives that were being implemented by different institutions, promoting better coordination and synergies (for example, the Seal of Equality in Businesses, the International Coalition for Equal Remuneration / EPIC or Law 56, which establishes the participation of women in the boards of state companies and mixed capital corporations).
On the other hand, in Panama we go beyond the initial axes of the GPI (labor participation, equal pay and female participation in decision spaces) to include other issues that we consider vital to achieving the goal of equality (support for entrepreneurship, for example), because without taking them into account, progress would be much slower, as well as more costly and limited.