In the picture H. E. Ms. Erika Mouynes, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama.
By H.E. Ms. Elizabeth Ward Neiman, Ambassador of the Republic of Panama.
In the 1960’s, a cigarette company launched a marketing campaign tapping into the beginning of the women empowerment movement. Sixty years later, the shift against cigarette smoking has come a long way, but so has the empowerment of women and gender equality shifted remarkably as well. This shift is especially recognizable within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Panama.
The Republic of Panama is a State Party of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and has ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention of the International Labour Organization (ILO) of 1951 (Convention No. 100), as well as actively participating in several regional and international forums.
In 2012, the World Economic Forum (WEF) created the Initiatives of Gender Parity (IPG) with the objective of accelerating women’s equality integration in the work force combining public and private sector initiatives. The WEF initiated the awareness of the IPG and implementation in 2012. However, it was not until 2016 that the efforts moved to Latin America with Panama as a frontrunner along with Chile and Argentina.
In constituting public-private alliances including people from public institutions, multilateral organizations and public and private organizations, the goal of Panama’s Initiatives of Gender Parity (IPG Panama) was directed towards promoting best practices to close the economic gender gap by increasing the number of women in the labor force, reduce the wage gap and promote women in leadership positions.
One of the leaders of the nine institutions that form part of the Panamanian alliance is the governmental National Institute for Women (INAMU). By creating the program, “Mujer, Cambia tu Vida” (Woman, Change your Life), INAMU has provided the necessary environment and opportunities for women to achieve economic independence aimed at an integral economy and a sustainable social environment in a competitive means that is in line with the current Government Action Plan.
In order to measure achievements aimed towards the international and national gender parity goals, Panama created a system of indicators with focus on gender in Panama (SIEGPA). Data is collected systematically from both the private and public sectors to facilitate the formulation, implementation and follow up of public policies regarding gender parity. The data is divided by sex, age, ethnic background, health measures as well as other relevant factors that affect women.
Panama aims to accelerate Gender Equality in the Public Sector in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Through INAMU the government proposed a Gender Parity Certificate, as an initiative within the framework of the Institutional Strengthening Project of the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) within the public institutions. The objective of granting this certificate is to support and recognize the effort taking place to achieve gender parity moving forward on the construction of an inclusive State.
In order to achieve the proposed goals, Panama has conscientiously taken important steps in this matter such as training more women to enter the task force as well as employing more qualified women for leadership roles within the government, in addition to creating awareness of gender parity by enforcing the private sector to follow suit.
Although there is a clear shift in gender parity among the labor force in all public institutions as well as in the private sector, nowhere is this as obvious as in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs!
Appointed in December 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIRE) is currently led by HE Erika Mouynes. It is selected women who accompany Minister Mouynes; HE Dayra Carrizo Castillero and HE Ana Luisa Castro as Vice Chancellor and Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation, respectively. In addition to the three highest authority positions being occupied by outstanding internationally experienced women, 57% of the 14 appointed Department directors in the Ministry are highly qualified professional women.
The Minister Mouynes promotes the agenda of gender equality and the empowerment of all women with her participation in the campaign “#YoAlzoMiVoz” supporting the generation of equality as part of the collective call to action of the UN Women Decade of Action. She is also committed to the EPIC initiative (Equal Pay International Coalition) as a member of the steering committee, representing 1 of the 8 countries that globally leads actions for equal pay between men and women.
The Foreign Service forms part of the Ministry personnel and great effort has also been made to reach gender parity in this area. Nowadays, approximately 40% of the heads of Diplomatic Missions, whether ambassadors, general or honorary consuls, as well as others, are women.
In addition to this, Panama is represented in several multilateral organizations by women holding commendable positions. Ambassador María Roquebert is Permanent Representative of Panama to the Organization of American States (OAS), where she has emphasized that women must be represented in all areas equally, including politics. Just recently, Vivian Fernández de Torrijos was elected to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the Conference of State Parties.
Out of over 1,580 women participating, All About Shipping selected HE Natalia Royo de Hagerman, Ambassador of Panama to the United Kingdom, as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in the global shipping industry. Not forming part of a multilateral organization, nor part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, but equally relevant on the international scene is Ilya Espino de Marotta, Deputy Administrator of the Panama Canal and Vice President of Operations, who is of influence in almost all international trade.
And last, but not least, I have recently joined the prestigious organization, International Gender Champions, a leadership network that brings together high-level women and men decision-makers determined to break down gender barriers and make gender equality a working reality.
It is with great honor and pride that we, as women, represent our country, the Republic of Panama, around the world as an example to other nations of the importance of gender parity.