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An Evening in Politics: Gender in Public Policies in Latin America

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A lively audience of students and faculty participated in an intense debate on Oct. 24 in the Faculty Lounge of Webb Hall, during "An Evening in Politics: Gender in Public Policies."  Nora Nagels, a postdoctoral scholar at the Université de Montréal, addressed the issue of gender and social policies in Latin America. Nagels said part of the struggle of bringing sound social policies, such as education and health in the region is the lack of sensitivity towards the gender agenda.

Nagels illustrated this idea with the way in which a program, Conditional Cash Transfers (or CCTS) is implemented in Bolivia and Peru. Under this scheme, mothers and children receive financial assistance in the form of cash from their respective governments on the condition that expecting mothers attend health checkups and follow up visits, and children do not drop out of school.

Nagels agreed that although these are well-intended programs, they restrict women to their specific role as mothers, neglecting other potential opportunities to help them close an existing gender gap in the region that tend to favor men in terms of economic and professional opportunities.

Martín Mendoza-Botelho, assistant professor of political science, moderated the debate.
The following night, Nagels participated in the "Pizza and Politics Night" event, where her Latin American perspective was contrasted to that of the United States, presented by Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas. While Latin America uses a much more social model, the United States uses a more liberal and market-oriented approach to address social issues. In both cases, women tend to be relegated to particular roles. As part of this event, Eastern students Erin Drouin and Stephanie Conway served as discussants, providing a fresh perspective from their generational point of view.

Part of the discussion centered on the idea that although women have made enormous progress narrowing the gender gap, states around the world still neglect to take a much more balanced gender perspective for both men and women. The Department of Political Science, Geography and Philosophy, the Program of Latin American Studies and the Program on Women's and Gender Studies co-sponsored both events.

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