Colombia wants to be at the forefront in care policies with a pioneering system. This is stated by Natalia Moreno, manager of the National Care System, a subdivision of the newly created Ministry of Equality, in an interview with EFE.
Colombia wants to “be at the forefront” in implementing a national care policy for people – especially women – who are in charge of the 17 million people (minors and people with disabilities or the elderly) who need care in the country, the manager of the National Care System, Natalia Moreno, explains to EFE in an interview.
“A third of the country requires priority care needs that unfortunately the State is not guaranteeing and that those who end up guaranteeing in practice are women, mainly with unpaid care work,” explains Moreno.
With the creation of the Ministry of Equality, approved in Congress in December 2022 and promulgated by President Gustavo Petro on June 30, the National Care System was created.
Colombia is, after Uruguay, the second country in Latin America to implement such a system, which seeks to articulate programs of various ministries with territorial entities and is born under the premise that “we are a society that needs care permanently and interdependently” and that “the State must primarily guarantee the right to care.”
This is a “strong legal framework” to create policies – which have yet to be designed, but are expected to be presented in March – that range from subsidies for mothers who are heads of households or caregivers of people with disabilities to more complex community care programs, or study and training for female caregivers.
There are seven million women in the country dedicated to unpaid care. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), a woman dedicates an average of 7 hours and 44 minutes a day to unpaid work in Colombia (which can reach 8 and a half hours in rural areas), while men only three hours.
These women stop studying, working or even looking after their own health to take care of other people.
“There is a disproportionate burden on homes and women and the State is not assuming its fair share,” says Moreno. Its management, which is migrating to depend on the Ministry of Equality but wants to articulate all departments, wants to repair that and also encourage care to be equated.
There is a “very sexist culture,” warns Moreno: ” even surveys have shown us that men who change their thinking do not generate a change in behavior, that is, they continue to have the same level of care hours as those who are sexist.” .
This week the first meeting of new masculinities groups took place and they want to see what practices developed by these men for 30 years work to apply them. Also considered is the creation – which already exists in Bogotá – of schools where things as basic as how to cook rice or change a diaper are taught.
“The cultural change and the redistribution of care between men and women involves psycho-emotional support for women and care training schools for men,” says Moreno.
Towards new models of care
From the care management they want to work on basic measures with other ministries, such as the Ministry of Labor, to promote a “labor inspection program so that households comply with the labor rights of domestic workers” or with the Housing Ministry so that in the Programs to access social housing prioritize women heads of household, but they also look for other models.
“The vice president (and Minister of Equality, Francia Márquez) has asked us not to have a colonial vision of care,” explains Moreno, and that is why they have held meetings throughout the country to also learn how care is taken in Afro, Raizal and indigenous communities.
“What we have found is that care is collective. In the territories of ethnic groups it is not individual care like what we have in the city,” alludes the manager. The communities make community pots for several households, or practices such as the “changed hand”, where one day a woman dedicates herself to cooking for the rest, while the neighbor takes care of the children, and another does the shopping.
That is why they see it as a priority that the communities “execute these types of programs with the State”, that transfers can be made to continue encouraging this type of care; “that cultural practices of collective care can continue, but with the support of the State,” he highlights.
One of the first measures has been the launch this Friday of the care route, which will bring vehicles with integrated services such as educational programs, daycare, psychological care or occupational assistance to remote communities to care for caregivers for several months.
The budget for this system is still under negotiation, as the manager wants each ministry to separate part of its allocations for care programs and at the same time guarantee transfers to mayors and organizations to execute at the territorial level.
At the same time, these programs also want to anticipate a global problem: the aging of the population.
“We are aware of the demographic change, it is clearly happening in Colombia and unfortunately we are not prepared,” confesses the manager.
In the new Ministry of Equality there will be an aging department that addresses it, since Colombia has focused on early childhood and has been leaving aside the elderly.