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  The Changing Landscape of Women's Education in Latin America

A panel presentation examining the dramatic changes in women's education in Latin America in recent decades, and the challenges it faces in the future.

Neilson Browsing Room, Neilson Library, Smith College :: 4:30 pm



The Changing Landscape of Women's Education in Latin America

Throughout South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, the number of literate women has increased steadily in recent decades. More and more women are receiving secondary and tertiary education. What accounts for the success of Latin American nations in expanding women's educational opportunities? To what extent have non-government organizations been involved to this effort? How have public policies factored into these changes? What role have women political leaders played in expanding educational opportunities? What obstacles still remain in achieving educational equity for women?

This conference, which is part of the Kahn Institute's yearlong project Why Educate Women? Global Perspectives on Equal Opportunity, will examine the numerous changes that have taken place in women's education in Latin America and the associated shifts that have occurred in women's employment, political participation, personal and family health, and social life. It will bring to Smith College three scholars representing sustantial experience with the diverse issues associated with women's education in Latin America. The three will present their unique viewpoints on the situation in the region, affording Smith and Five College students and faculty access to a broad range of perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing Latin American women and girls as they seek to become educated and vital participants in the nations and societies into which they were born.




Cecilia Blondet

Cecilia Blondet

Cecilia Blondet has been the Executive Director of the National Council for Public Ethics (PROETICA) in Peru since January 2006. She served as Peru’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Promotion of Women and Human Development, and also as the President of the Ethics Tribunal in the Peruvian Press Council. She has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Civil Society and Governance Project, sponsored (worldwide) by the Ford Foundation Ford and the University of Sussex, and has acted as consultant for USAID, CARE Perú, the Ford Foundation, Telefónica del Perú and the Hochschild Group in social and community matters. Currently a member of the High-Level Anti-Corruption Commission of Peru, she is also a member of the Board of Directors and senior researcher in the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (Institute of Peruvian Studies), a member of the Board of Directors of Transparencia Civil Association, of the Ancash Association of Antamina Mining Company, and a member of the Advisory Council of the Children of Millenium International Project, sponsored by Save the Children UK. She is the author of numerous publications on social policy, poverty and development, and political and social participation of women.

Ms. Blondet will discuss efforts to address issues associated with rural education in Peru, and the serious problems that continue in rural areas in spite of favorable macroeconomic indicators and the sustained national growth of the past ten years. Those problems are particularly acute when one deals with the indigenous population that constitutes approximately 30% of the total population. How much of this miserable condition corresponds to the quality of education in rural areas and how much to other factors that reinforce the exclusion of indigenous women? In her presentation, Ms. Blondet will examine the dilemma that confronts rural women is the following: maintain their ties in the community, the protection, status and recognition that this brings to them and their families, or break those ties and send their children to the city to be educated, with the risk that they will end up as workers (underemployed) in homes, workshops or businesses.


Marysa Navarro

Marysa NavarroA native of Pamplona, Spain, Marysa Navarro has taught Latin American History at Dartmouth College since 1968 and has served as a visiting scholar at institutions throughout Europe and Latin America. She completed her undergraduate work in Montevideo, Uruguay and then attended Columbia University, where she received a Masters Degree in 1960 and a PhD in 1964. She is a past president of the Latin American Studies Association and was the Project Director for the Ford Foundation/LASA Committee on Women’s Studies in the Americas. She has lectured extensively on a wide range of topics related to women’s education and political activism in Latin America. She is the author of or contributor to numerous books, including The Reader’s Companion to U.S. Women’s History, Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: Restoring Women to History, and Evita: Mitos y reprecentaciones.

In the last three decades of the twentieth century, the United Nations sponsored a series of conferences dealing with such issues as population, the environment, women, but no United Nations International Conference had women's education as its main focus. However, in several instances, the final Programms for Action included recommendations addressing women's needs and underscored women's education. The best example is perhaps the United Nations Conference on Population and Development that was held in Cairo, in 1994. Using the Cairo Programm for Action and the Platform for Action drafted by the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, Professor Navarro will examine what the global impact of the UN conferences on the education of women.


Karen Michelle Mejía Burgos

Karen Mejia Karen Michelle Mejía Burgos is CARE Central America’s Coordinator for the Women’s Political Empowerment Project. She works at the community level to empower girls and women through education and leadership. In that position, she has worked with CARE's project partners to launch a women’s leadership training school in El Salvador. She has also facilitated the creation of a group of women organized to defend women’s human rights and advance political participation at the local, regional and national levels. In a recent program in El Salvador, she worked with the Ministry of Education, women’s organizations and parents’ associations to implement school-based violence prevention strategies and to engage communities in monitoring the safety and quality of schools for young and teenage girls. This program worked directly with 2400 girls, boys and adolescents in 80 communities. Karen has also designed and implemented capacity-building strategies for decision-makers in government and civil society to improve transparency and accountability in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador in a program implemented by CARE in collaboration with DANIDA, USAID and OAS. She also participated in the XI Meeting of the Nonpermanent Specialized Committees (CENPES) of the Organization of American States and was elected president of the Commission to Strengthen Democratic Institutions. Karen holds a Bachelor of International Relations at the National University of El Salvador and she also completed a diplomacy course on participatory and sustainable management of community programs at the Jose Simeon Canas Central American University.


Ms. Mejía will discuss the efforts from CARE to advance leadership and empowerment of girls in Central America. Her presentation will include the approach to the design of strategies to prevent school violence, which is one of the causes of school dropouts—especially among girls. She will also share progress towards the adoption of a model of equity education and the challenges identified in that model.



This conference is sponsored by the Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute's project "Why Educate Women? Global Perspectives on Equal Opportunity"; the Program on Women & Social Change; and the Global Studies Center at Smith College.




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