Women’s issues not taken seriously in Buenos Aires

Ofelia Fernández, the Buenos Aires legislator and women’s rights activist, says there is a need to create a ministry of gender, women and diversity in the Argentine capital.

This article was first published by Peoples Dispatch. It is republished here with permission.

Ofelia Fernández, a member of the Buenos Aires City Legislature, is promoting a campaign to prioritise gender policies in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA). Fernández is a member of Vamos political party, a part of the left-wing political front, Frente Patria Grande. She was elected in October 2019 at 19 years of age and is the youngest legislator in Latin America.

Recently, the Buenos Aires legislator and women’s rights activist took part in an interview with the community, popular and alternative media organisations such as Barricada TV, Notas, Radio Sur, Radio Gráfica, Notas Periodismo Popular, Canal Abierta, Radio La Tribu and ¿Buenos Aires vos quien sos?.

In the beginning of the interview, Ofelia stated that the City of Buenos Aires is a progressive and feminist city but that the demands of the collectives are not heard by right-wing leader Horacio Larreta, the head of government of CABA. “The city has hosted the massive multitudous mobilisations for abortion, of the Ni Una Menos collective. It is very irritating that a city, which has had such a great degree of mobilisations, is not able to prioritise public policies on gender matters that its own citizens have marked,” said Fernández.

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Likewise, Fernández also said that despite having achieved the rights both at the national and the city level, they are not guaranteed and complied with. “We have had a ILE (Legal Termination of Pregnancy) protocol since 1921 and the city still fails to guarantee access to that right. We have a national gender identity law but they don’t let the Housing Emergency Law for that population to be discussed in the legislature.”

Ofelia said that the lack of prioritisation of gender policy in the CABA is reflected in the governance structure. “There is only one Directorate dedicated to gender. It has very few workers and one of the few tools it has is line 144 (a hotline dedicated to receiving denouncements of violence against women), which we know is managed by workers working under precarious conditions and that the line often collapses,” she explained.

The Buenos Aires legislator also discussed the criticism she received for proposing to create a ministry of gender, women and diversity in CABA. She pointed out that “the answers involving fiscal spending and what it would imply to prioritise these policies are absurd. Why are the rest of the areas prioritised and not our demands? The feminist agenda is always placed in the list of the least important things.” “In the City of Buenos Aires, there is no political will to solve the problems that we, the women, face,” she added.

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Fernández also expressed her opinion on the city government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and how it affected the popular and vulnerable sectors, Fernández said that “the logic is the same. It is mainly to take care of a population that is purely from Buenos Aires and that the rest manage themselves as they can. The conditions of structural inequality that the CABA government continues to reproduce are a particular slap in the face for women.”

The legislator also elaborated on policies that have been promoted by her party that the Buenos Aires City Legislature hasn’t considered discussing. “We have proposed to give economic remuneration to community caregivers and they did not discuss it, as well as the agenda of the trans population that does not have access to the formal labour market and quarantine left them without income, with overdue rents and on the street itself,” she said.

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The public policies carried out by the national government of Frente de Todos since assuming office were also discussed by Ofelia. “Obviously we didn’t expect this context, we imagined a difficult country but not such a difficult world. We are stressed and we find things that are still lacking or deficient but in general terms the work is very dignified. Taking stock of the mandate is practically taking stock of the management of the pandemic,” she said.

“The government has very well navigated the dichotomy that the hegemonic media has posed between the economy and health. It is about taking care of health and the economy. But whose economy? The economy of 99% of the population or the profit of the 1% population that concentrates the wealth in numerous ways. If we look at countries that have prioritised the economy like the United States, we see that health has not been taken care of, but they also have 20 million economies. What economy are they looking after there? It is not that of the great majority,” she concluded.

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