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Chile’s Women And Gender Minister Resigned Only After A Month In Office. Sometimes Women Are Women’s Worst Enemies

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In the past 6 months, I have thought a lot about why women are treated differently and why the women’s rights movement is moving ahead at a snail’s pace. I realised that before now I was asking all the wrong questions and focusing on the problem when right now we need to find solutions so we can actually help women in need and balance out the patriarchal society. All my answers lead me to come to one conclusion, perhaps the most important one, and that is that that to create any kind of change, we need the right kind of representation. 

For too long we have had men talking to us about our rights, how we need to conduct ourselves and what can and can’t we do with our bodies. We can’t and we shouldn’t stand for that, right? We need a woman representing women because that is the only way any of our voices will be heard, understood and implemented. I believe that because of the great examples that Finland and New Zealand pose but then I look at Chile and my faith in that statement shakes a little. 

The thing is, Chile does have a woman representing women but she had to step down because she did a horrible job. But the replacement they got for her (also a woman) was equally bad, if not worse. Okay, let’s get you some context first. 

Chile’s Women and Gender Minister Macarena Santelices resigned from her post merely a month after she took office. Why? The reason is simple. She received a lot of backlash for her work, aptitude and performance.  

On Tuesday, Macarena Santelices took to Twitter to announce that she will be stepping down. She tweeted “The day it is understood that women’s rights are not political – that they belong to all and for all – we can move forward.” 

Before taking office Macarena took office in May, she was a mayor with no connection to gender issues. I should probably mention that she is the great-niece of a former Chilean dictator- Augusto Pinochet. When she took office, it was amid some significant opposition from women’s rights groups. Since then, feminist groups, citizens and political organizations have condemned her work and even citied past interviews where she has supported and even tried to justify Pinochet’s rule. 

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, under Pinochet’s regime thousands of women were tortured and almost all the female political activists were jailed and subjected to sexual violence. 

Once Macarena took office, she implemented some controversial decisions which prompted the hashtag #WeDoNotHaveAMinister to trend in Chile last month. 

The final nail in her coffin came when she was forced to pull a controversial public service campaign against domestic violence. Apparently, the video which was circulated as an advertisement for that campaign featured an old man telling his granddaughter how much he regretted abusing her grandmother. 

Women’s groups said that the video was overly sympathetic to the abusers. It received a lot of backlash and the ministry had to take it down. They admitted that “did not send the intended message”.  It is extremely tone-deaf for a woman, who is a minister of gender no less, to release an ad that seems to side with the abuser. 

Macarena’s resignation comes at a time when Chile is grappling with a surge in domestic violence cases. Emergency services are swamped with the number of domestic violence calls they have been getting. This hike is largely due to the lockdown that was imposed in the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

She is being replaced by Mónica Zalaquett. Monica is a former deputy who advised Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on women’s issues in his 2017 campaign. But like I said earlier, she is worse if not as bad as Macarena. 

It was Monica who opposed an ease on the total abortion ban in Chile. This includes termination of pregnancy if it has been caused by rape or if there is any harm to the woman or the foetus. In 2013, when the abortion ban was still in place, Monica applauded and condoned and 11-year-old girl who gave birth after being denied an abortion.  

I might not be an expert on women’s rights or Chilean politics, but those are not the markings of a good Women and Gender minister. After Macarena resigned, the women’s groups in Chile were extremely happy but the appointment of Monica has once again prompted the #WeDoNotHaveAMinister hashtag to trend.

Now, you see what I meant by sometimes even when women are representing women they do a horrid job? Sometimes, unfortunately, we become each other’s worst enemy. 

It is a fact that a woman representative can do more women in that country than a man can but Chile is not a good example of that.

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