First Women's Economic Empowerment Forum

Figures on the gender gap show that inequality impedes women's development and economic autonomy. Swisscontact supports women in the achievement of their economic, social and political autonomy so that they can make decisions that transform their lives. In order to facilitate the exchange of experiences between different industry actors, we conducted the first forum on women’s economic empowerment in Guatemala in September 2019. The forum was attended by 12 experts and nearly 200 attendees from institutions, the general public and the media.

Women’s autonomy

Among the speakers was Sonia Montaño, a Bolivian sociologist and former director of the Women and Development Unit of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). She spoke about the importance of women achieving economic and political decision-making autonomy as well as bodily and reproductive autonomy. It is in this context that the separation of public and private spheres prevents women from developing equally outside the home.

Challenges for women’s economic empowerment in Guatemala

Ana Garita, a specialist in UN Women's political participation, presented a data-based overview of the current situation of women in Guatemala: inequalities include poverty, social and labour exclusion, sexual violence and difficulty accessing decent work. The link to her presentation is available in the report of the forum.

Multidimensional systemic action for the economic empowerment of indigenous rural women

Rosio Tarrága, women's empowerment coordinator at Swisscontact Bolivia, talked about her experience of working with indigenous women in Bolivia. She illustrated the  (video in Spanish), which is implemented by Swisscontact. The project’s multidimensional approach seeks an impact that reaches beyond the economic dimension and aims to scale up interventions by strengthening local actors. Besides taking into account human rights, access to opportunities, resources and having a voice in decision-making are also dimensions that have a great impact on improving women's quality of life.


The forums looked at the reality of women in the economy from different perspectives. Panelists exchanged experiences and discussed how to overcome barriers to close gender gaps. For instance, the forum entitled Challenges and Opportunities from Different Contexts exposed the difficulties women face in the labour market. One of the speakers was President of AGEXPORT Connie de Paiz who spoke about the importance of leadership in a business environment. With regard to economic autonomy, Swisscontact expert in inclusive finance Ariane Appel explained the obstacles that women face at a global level to access financing.


The forum was complemented by participatory workspaces in which attendees discussed issues relating to women's economic empowerment and came up with suggestions together.

Key conclusions:

  • Having an interdisciplinary approach to gender issues allows us to have a broad view in search of integral solutions.
  • It is important to create multidisciplinary alliances who share a common vision and the same values which go beyond the objectives.
  • Creating alliances between projects and organisations with different approaches is a fundamental factor in achieving sustainable results.
  • It is essential to generate public policies which propose practicable solutions and take into account the multidimensional nature of the gender approach.


Towards substantive equality: achieving the full exercise of universal rights and making them effective in everyday life:

  1. We aspire to an equitable world, with gender equality, social inclusion and aiming to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDS).  To achieve this, we must work in an integral manner through the articulation of different actors and sectors: academia, municipalities, state programs, private sector, international cooperation, civil society, etc.
  2. The empowerment of women and the increase in their participation in decision-making spaces is part of a process of deconstruction of social norms and roles that positions women in reproduction and care activities that are not recognized as work.
  3. Women's autonomy must be based on the physical, economic and political dimensions.
  4. Even today, women have to go through a long struggle to gain access to managerial spaces. In Latin America, only 30% of women actively participate in the economy.
  5. Autonomy in decision-making is fundamental for women in political positions so that they can assume leadership and favor the creation of public policies that contribute to their integral development.
  6. The challenge of women's economic empowerment is to close gender gaps. We should not only talk about financial inclusion but also take into account technology, credit, public policies and networking.
  7. For each year of basic education, adolescent pregnancy decreases by 6 percentage points; therefore, it is necessary for formal education to include comprehensive sexuality education.
  8. The country's vision of economic development must be viewed from an intercultural perspective.
  9. Economic development should not be conditioned to a local market; women and indigenous peoples can export and seek more comprehensive solutions. The challenge for the state is to understand how society functions and to channel actions that fit in with the reality and worldview of the peoples. We need an intercultural country where one culture does not repress the other.
  10. Men must be aware of the privileges they have. It is necessary to open spaces to work towards responsible paternities, co-responsibility and new masculinities.

Report of the event (in Spanish)