Social Investment in Women’s Human Rights
This article gathers the reflections of organizations, businesses and independent consultants from the Social Investment roundtable held in the framework of the launch in Nicaragua of the exploratory research project, “New Horizons: Social Responsibility and Women’s Human Rights in Central America,” carried out by FCAM with INTEGRARSE, uniRSE (Nicaragua), Fundemas (El Salvador) and CentraRSE (Guatemala).
Participants in the roundtable discussed the following two questions:
- What are the main benefits obtained by businesses as a result of having initiatives in favor of women’s human rights, both internally and in the community?
- What practical recommendations would you give to businesses to improve their participation in exercising women’s human rights in the corporate sphere?
Women were very open in expressing their opinions, experiences, recommendations and challenges:
- “If women are empowered, we are better; our children are better, our families are better, and that productivity returns to the company.”
- “Inasmuch as we are motivated, we improve productivity, and as a result, that generates labor stability for us and that labor stability contributes to tranquility in our homes.”
- “In the company, we have become plumbers, carpenters, and we are not less than anybody else. We have empowered ourselves more because we acquired new skills and abilities. Women, as we are more independent, are going to feel more empowered and the only way this will happen is to have spaces in society and in companies to have the opportunity to work.”
- “Businesses and organizations in general should be clear in the knowledge that a motivated woman generates ideas, proposals, commitments and definitely, being a woman with self-esteem, I transmit that security back to my family. If I believe in what I’m doing, I commit to what I do, definitively my daughter, my son, are going to have that positive vision and that also manifests in my community.”
For change to be sustainable and assertive, formalizing and monitoring commitments was considered a key part of the reflection process:
- “If possible, the company should do an assessment before carrying out any activity in order to pinpoint the direction in which they should head, see how things are internally, see how partners and vendors are doing with regard to human rights, and to know what is most concerning, what is upsetting them most, and based on these findings determine what will be done.”
- It is essential to constantly adjust and revise the recruitment and selection policy to guarantee that positions do not have a sexist bias that limits women’s access. This also includes companies with characterized as masculine, such as construction and heavy haul transport.
- “The challenge that I see in businesses is having clear and up-to-date data about their employees. For example, one of the companies said that the majority of their employees are male. It would be worth finding out how many of their families are dysfunctional. In the case of women, how many of them are heads of household, how many children are in their care, and how many are alone in taking on their challenges of their families? This is valuable information that should be contextualized. In the case of working with men and their families, it is important to see them in the community, where there is also machismo, which is why it is necessary to create conditions both inside and outside of the company.”
- “Company management should take on a leading role on women’s rights. It is important that they allocate resources, because what is not budgeted is not done. An organizational climate that integrates a gender focus should be created, together with training on issues such as sexual harassment, with a gender committee within the company that includes male members of management that have demonstrated commitment to these issues. Another key component are strategic alliances. If the company does not have expertise, it is important that it seek allies that have experience so that gender issues are mainstreamed across all programs, projects and initiatives.”
- “Programs to promote gender equity with contributions from different areas are needed, on issues such as the family, because that is really where the effective exercise of equality takes shape, and where men play a key role. It is also vital that companies understand that the investment they make in girls, even as a long term investment, is very effective.”
- “Different efforts that a business makes in the area of human rights also benefits talent retention. It is important for businesses and organizations that the people they invest in stay, are happy, want to work with the company and are committed. If these conditions are present, on both a personal and professional level you have a strong element in place. At the same time, when you go to face the community (because we work through our foundation), volunteer work is actually voluntary and that has to do with how workers feel in terms of their motivation with the company.”
- “Businesses should integrate women’s rights into their policies and have an ethics line, because that allows women employees to feel supported. Likewise, businesses should offer tools to incentivize women’s empowerment.
They also shared the challenges they see in collaborative work and alliances:
- “The alliances between businesses and organizations need to be strengthened, because organizations have methodologies and businesses have resources. We do not necessarily need an international organization with something already developed; there are plenty of initiatives here by organizations that we can take advantage of, and businesses do not need a foreign consultant that does the work for them or creates a program.”
- “We need to create and take advantage of spaces to get to know one another and see what we can do together.”
Roundtable participants:Libros para Niños, SINSA, Café Las Flores, Grupo Terra, Soynica, CODENI, World Food Programme, SOS Children’s Villages, Centro Holístico, Wayman Tours, RETE, AMSPAC Nicaragua, HOLCIM, Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN), uniRSE and independent consultants. Moderador:Dionisio Saenz.