Paraguay is a South American country located in the sub-region of the Southern Cone, along with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. It is also part of the Mercosur mechanism for regional integration. Geographically, it has two distinct regions: the East (which is home to 98 per cent of the population), watered by rivers and with agricultural land, and the Chaco, an extensive plain used for livestock farming, home to the biggest environmental reserves.
It has a population of 6,780,504. 41.1 per cent of the population live in rural areas. The indigenous population constitutes 2 per cent of the total population, equivalent to approximately 115,944 people divided into 19 ethnic groups and five linguistic families. Paraguay is considered a middle-income country distinguished, nonetheless, by marked socioeconomic inequalities. Firstly, in terms of human development, the country is in 111th place out of 187 countries with a Human Development Index considered average (0.676), albeit lower than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean (0.740). There are high relative levels of poverty, affecting 22.6 per cent of the population, of whom 16.2 per cent live in urban areas and 32 per cent in rural areas. Extreme poverty affects 10.5 per cent, 19.2 per cent of whom live in rural areas and 4.6 per cent in urban areas, evidencing the gap in terms of poverty between the urban and rural populations. Secondly, a Gini coefficient of 0.5102 reflects the population's unequal distribution of income.
The gender pay gap is another source of inequality. The integration of women in the workplace occurs unequally, with markedly different rates of economic activity or effective or potential involvement in the labour market between men (87.1 per cent) and women (62.0 per cent), 25.1 percentage points lower for women. For those living in poverty, the proportion of economically active women is considerably reduced (50.9 per cent), while it remains virtually unchanged for men (86 per cent). Women's monthly incomes are equivalent to only 71.0 per cent of those of men, the majority of women working in the informal sector with highly vulnerable working conditions and no access to social security.
UN Women supports the Paraguayan State in the challenge to extend women's rights and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women. It also supports civil society initiatives, contributing mainly to strengthening women's organizations to ensure that their voices are heard with regard to equality of rights and opportunities.
UN Women is developing its mandate under the CEDAW provisions and its General Recommendations, in addition to those specific to the country. Its cooperation agenda is structured into four thematic areas prioritized according to the needs identified in the country and considered strategic to achieve progress and the equality of women.
- The leadership and political participation of women, focused on amending legislation, advocacy and political dialogue to raise women's level of political participation and representation in elected office and administration at every level of the State, national, departmental and municipal, and by promoting compliance with international human rights instruments ratified by the country on the political citizenship of women.
- The economic empowerment of women, with the purpose of promoting the improvement of material living conditions and the economic empowerment of women, particularly of the most excluded, such as domestic staff, indigenous women and migrants, through support for changes to domestic employment legislation in compliance with the provisions of ILO Convention 189, cooperation for formulation of the National Development Plan, with an emphasis on the fight against poverty and the production of knowledge.
- The elimination of violence against women, focused on advocacy and political dialogue in order to support the public institutions involved and civil society in the adoption of a comprehensive law against violence, in compliance with the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee to the Paraguayan State in this regard. The production of knowledge is being promoted throughout this area, along with the development of mass awareness-raising campaigns on the elimination of violence against women aimed at the general public and particularly at young people.
- The promotion of international regulatory frameworks and intergovernmental political commitments on gender equality and the empowerment of women, designed to advocate, disseminate and support implementation of the international human rights instruments ratified by the country, among them CEDAW and its recommendations, the Beijing +20 recommendations, in particular on the political participation of women, the promotion of the Post 2015 Agenda and the adoption of an independent Transformation Objective to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN Women will develop its cooperation agenda with state agencies, primarily the National Women's Mechanism and other strategic state actors such as the Congress Equality Commissions, Electoral Justice, and some municipal governments. UN Women is also supporting the actions of women's civil society organizations to strengthen the women's rights agenda. The Country Office is working in close coordination with the UN Country Team, seeking synergies primarily with those agencies whose mandates have points of contact with those of UN Women.
The UN Women cooperation agenda is put into practice by means of the following strategies:
The area of leadership and political participation is a lynch pin for or entry point to the other areas, when one considers that for the inclusion of women's needs or issues of interest it is necessary to strengthen women's leadership and extend their participation in decision-making spheres at every level of the State, in addition to the fields of civil society participation.
- Political advocacy (campaigning and communication);
- Knowledge management;
- Promotion of the strengthening and/or building of networks.