My Perception of Feminism in Chile

Since I was little, I had the notion that in the majority of families the man was the one that worked and the woman was at home taking care of the children and the household. I started to question myself: “what if I do not want to do that in my life?” A similar questioning happened when I wanted to play soccer; the answer was “that is a sport for men”. Every time when I heard an expression like that, I felt a small pain inside my stomach, which was anger; it was a feeling of “that is not fair”. I do not know from where I achieved this way of thinking being so young. Perhaps it came from the encouragement received from my family to study, or maybe it was just in the air at that time.

I was born in Chile in 1983 under the dictatorship period (1973-1990), but it wasn’t until I went to college that I could understand the relevance of this part of the history of my country. The reason was that in many families the subject became a taboo, and it was “not appropriate” to talk about it. Or perhaps people just wanted to forget the events happened during that time and keep going with their lives.

During this time the sense of injustice against women’s rights was expressed with an immense force, especially in urban areas. Brave women carried on such protests against a tough authority, and as a consequence, they created a wide awareness about women’s rights. I believe that these events have triggered significant improvements to reach equality in our society.

Although there are many relevant issues that remain unsolved (due to several reasons such as influence from religious beliefs, tradition, fear, lack of open-mindedness, or a combination of these factors), in the present day there is a larger conscience about gender equality than in the past.

Women from urban sectors have better opportunities; they live in a more equal social condition than women from rural areas. However, I am not sure if such conditions in rural sectors happens because of lacking of opportunities (i.e. insufficient financial resources to study in an urban city), or it might be a personal decision. If this is the case, is it related to tradition and true acceptance of acquiring that role or is it lack of awareness? Notwithstanding this situation, I have personally met women from rural sectors in southern Chile and some of them are really brave, especially the ones that have studied and lived outside their own villages.

Overall, Chilean women are changing. My generation of women has achieved enormous improvements compared with the generation of my mother, and even more compared to the generation of my grandmothers. The enhancement of access to education for females is one of the reasons why this change has occurred. An example of a profound change in our society happened in 2006, when Michelle Bachelet became the first female president of Chile, and the first one in Latin America.

The task of increasing conscience among society and the accomplishment of gender equality seems to be growing across the globe; although, the speed of this movement varies significantly depending on the place on earth that we are talking about. But no matter the pace that women are following towards this goal, the main thing is to keep moving. And the main threat is to accept such behavior as a “part of a culture”, and get used to such ideas.

I remember a phrase that was introduced to me in one of my courses of my last semester by who is probably one of the best lecturers of the University of Queensland, Dr. Chris McGrath. He recalled several times the words of Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011) who was from Kenya and won the Nobel Peace Laureate: “You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them”. Clearly she was talking about nature in this quotation, but the environment includes everything, it includes to the entire society and consequently, it includes human rights. Therefore, the key is to empower woman and construct above solid basis to promote action.

Finally I would like to say that when I was studying in college, I played soccer for nearly 5 years and I can proudly say that together with a group of friends, we were the founders of the women’s soccer team of our University.

~ Ana Almonacid

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