The Coalition of Latin American Consuls in New York (CLANY) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer celebrated Latinas in New York City at an awards ceremony and discussion on empowerment and gender equality, recently.
To a packed auditorium at Baruch College, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile (2006-2010), a long-time champion of women’s rights, gave the keynote speech. Bachelet is now the first under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, established in July 2010 by the UN General Assembly.
Bachelet’s mandate is to lead, support and coordinate gender equality work and empowerment of women at global, regional and country levels.
“It’s not acceptable, the phobia that excludes half the population,” she said pointing out there are countries where women are not allowed to vote. In her advocacy of gender equality she implored how women must be protected in areas of conflict and condemned violence against women.
“When women can participate fully, society can reach it’s full potential,” she said emphasizing that the global crisis is no excuse to exclude women.
Bachelet also addressed local issues. Half of emigrants in New York City are of Latino origin, she relayed. “They are in a most vulnerable situation. They have a lower education level; 37 percent do not have a high school diploma, which directly relates to the kinds of jobs they do (37 percent service industries) and salaries they receive (56 percent of that of white males).
The former president also spoke of the necessity for women to advance in leadership roles especially in the political and legislative areas. “With more women in these positions, we can advance labor laws and equality,” she said. “It is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do” for women to participate fully in economic and cultural life of the city.
Following the inspirational address, honorees received their awards. Hailing from Monterrey, in Mexico, Leticia Alanis was honored for activism in the Immigrant Rights Movement and organizing in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She is also a board member of N.Y. Immigration Coalition and is the co-founder and executive director of La Union.
Cecelia Gaston, an outspoken advocate against violence against women is director of the Violence Intervention program. She was recognized for her track record of service to the Latino community and other disenfranchised groups.
Unable to attend, third recipient Elba Montalvo is the founder of The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, an organization that addresses the needs for services and information directed to the Latino community. Montalvo is involved with many organizations involved with the human rights and child welfare. Following the awards ceremony, an informative panel with the recipients discussed their work. Alanis fights for humane emigration policies, language access and advocacy for the Dream Act. Gaston spoke of how violence against women undermines everyone and factors such as fear of deportation, keep women in a state of intimidation. She also spoke of how deportation often results in American-born children landing in foster care.
Vanessa Ramos and Danielle Guido discussed Montalvo’s programs that include youth development, responsible fatherhood, dropout prevention and intervention. “Budget cuts leave scars, too,” said Vanessa Ramos. “Where we put our money, reflects our values (as a society).”
Carol Delgado, consul general from Venezuela, spoke during the Q&A on the necessity of reporting deportations of foreign nationals and foster placements of their children to their consulates. “Kids of foreign-born parents have no rights,” she said. “We’ve been working with Administration of Child Services (ACS) and have begun to meet with NYPD. It’s an important education process,” she said.