"Colunga has built a very powerful civil society work center"
We talked with Alejandra Sepúlveda about the paths that led her to civil society based on journalism. We delve into the current feminist movement, the conservatism that characterizes Chile, the surprises that it has CommunityWomen for this 2018 and his reflections on the ColungaHUB project.
How did you get to civil society?
Today, when I look at the puzzle of my personal and work life, it makes me a lot of sense to have finished working, already 10 years ago, in civil society. For what I did when I was a girl, the school where I studied, the profession I chose. My career choice always had to do with looking in journalism for a social role linked to research, to reporting, to the search for quality information for the formation of public opinion; That was my motivation. Then I was lucky to live outside of Chile and work as a correspondent for El Mercurio, in one of the most important cases that Chile has had in its history, which was the Pinochet case. That connected me with the dimension of Human Rights, of the defense of the rights of people, in this terrible situation that Chile experienced. In a way, that confirmed an ideal of what I liked and mobilized to be able to practice my profession, and that had to do with using my own skills, but also journalism, to transform reality.
Your work in Community Woman
When I returned to Chile I looked for a job with meaning, something that would give me that satisfaction. At first I combined work in the media with academic work. I knew that in ComunidadMujer they were looking for a Communications Director, I was editor of a La Tercera magazine at the time and decided to apply because I knew the work of the organization. It was love at first sight. Something that motivated me and continues to motivate me a lot is the work of advocacy, which again connects me with this vocation of how one can use their knowledge, their network and their skills to influence in order to improve injustices and all social vulnerability from different areas. Of course, in my case, the issue of gender equality is super relevant, it is something that moves me professionally and personally. I have learned a lot, I have been Executive Director of ComunidadMujer for 8 years and it has been a very important step because it is an organization that allows you to start from a solid platform where civil society, the State, companies participate, and generate conversations and dialogues that are important. I am sure that ComunidadMujer has influenced many public policies and the progress that has been made in Chile in terms of gender.
How do you see the current feminist movement?
Today we are in a very important historical moment, where we run the risk of losing this awareness that has awakened about gender inequalities, which is something that students in Chile have promoted. From the more adult world, we have to be super responsible in knowing how to conduct this in different areas, in cultural transformation, in public policies, in more private conversations, in the changes that have to be made in the quality of education in Chile. And it's an opportunity, that's what you have to understand. It is not that the students have put us in check for free, on the contrary, they are giving us the opportunity to improve a society that today does not respond to many social problems and especially to women who face great inequality.
What would you say to people who criticize the feminist movement?
Such is the level of conservatism that exists in Chilean society, that everything that poses a challenge to change culture, to advance in greater equality in roles, immediately generates a movement of opposition. Today we need to move towards a greater understanding of the rights approach. Women have the right to have the same opportunities as men. Those people who criticize what is happening today, is because they do not have an informed understanding of what this entails and how well it does to our country. One sees it especially expressed in the future of the new generations. My children today are teenagers who have a very broad understanding of what respect for the other means, what it means to be discriminated against or not, about the barriers that women face, because they see it in their peers, they see sexual harassment and see how we are not inventing anything here, that's what happens. That these men, who are of the new generations, have that breadth of understanding, means that we will have better families, better coexistence, better spaces for labor relations. Without a doubt, it's good for everyone.
What are you currently working on at ComunidadMujer?
We did a strategic planning exercise at the end of last year and it was very positive because we managed to articulate what the purpose of our organization would be for the next 5 years, and that is to achieve that girls are born and develop in a country with equal rights and opportunities. That is our purpose and that is why we work daily from 3 strategic areas: continue to problematize gender inequality, showing what are the existing gaps and that still persist, but also making an impact on public policy and the private world, in addition to maintaining a direct work with women.
What are your challenges?
We are going to launch our second GET report (Gender, Education and Labor) at the end of September. We built a film and did a longitudinal analysis of the gender gaps. We compare generations of grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters, and also grandparents, children and grandchildren. The trajectories of life of men and women. This is going to be super interesting. We have been from the organizations that have contributed to the analysis, in the sense of connecting the lives of women and not just talking about a particular stage. The GET allows us to contribute to public policy discussions. Today I am participating in a commission of the Ministry of Education for gender equity, which should take a letter and have very concrete proposals to face the problems of non-sexist education. We are also with the Gender Parity Initiative (IPG) What is this public-private platform in which the State, the company and civil society participate? We lead the IPG as Executive Secretariat and that is a very big job because we are looking to promote these public policies to close those economic gender gaps, but we also work with the member companies, which are 120. We are now advising and taking the model to others. Latin American countries.
I believe that our main challenge is to contribute to consolidate the cultural, social transformations and public policies that we need today to strengthen the equality of rights and opportunities of women in Chile.
How has your experience been at ColungaHUB?
We were the first inhabitants of the civil society of this building. We are 8 years ago. It has been very nice because we have been privileged witnesses, with ComunidadMujer, of how a dream is well defined, in an inspiring, convener, professional way, that is well articulated and with a value offer that is very distinctive. One of the big problems that the NGO's and civil society organizations, is precisely the lack of support to be able to finance all its structure, its human resources, the fact of having a place, an office, common spaces to be able to work, to be able to connect. Nowadays the organizations are financed with competitive funds and one goes and applies to one project and another, but this is the fixed cost is something that normally nobody helps you. One of the great attributes of the HUB of the Colunga Foundation is that it has provided support and the opportunity to strengthen civil society organizations that, if they were not here, it would be much more difficult for them to fulfill their mission. Here is a community that has been created, which is valuable in itself, for being a community in which we are all sharing certain values and seeking to improve our society, working in education, in poverty, in gender issues. But there is also the network and that one here has a house to be in, where to operate without having to be in that precariousness that characterizes the NGO's that are being born. Colunga has built a working pole of the super powerful civil society. Together we are more than alone and together we can make much more impact. We should probably make more noise than we are doing, but that will be generated.
And that is a challenge of the Colunga Foundation?
It is a challenge for everyone, but Colunga could be a great articulator on some issues and create a unified voice.
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