All abroad for no woman to be left behind in Colon!
It is 10:30 in the morning of 7 March, more than 20 ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps, civil society, business authorities, media and representatives of agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations System in Panama are on their way to the province of Colon aboard the first transoceanic train in the world to commemorate International Women's Day. The United Nations in Panama recognized the women of Colón who have been, are and will be the protagonists of the development of this province. Colón is no stranger to the work of the agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations in Panama. Therefore, following an invitation from the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Colón, which resulted in the first visit of the newly arrived Resident Coordinator, the idea of commemorating International Women's Day in the province of Colón was born. The objective was to shed light on the need to localize the SDGs at the local level, with gender equality at the forefront.
The UN system chose Colon due to decentralize its International Women’s Day celebration as despite being one of the most important provinces in Panama, with great potential for sustainable development, it is one of the poorest provinces in the country. Historically, economically and commercially, Colón has contributed extremely to Panama's development, from the activities of the Canal with its specialized economy that grew up around it. The province, through the inter-oceanic route, generates around 6% of the world's maritime trade; however, it is also a region where inequality is most present and visible often stigmatized by issues of criminality, youth gangs and high poverty rates.
The event organized by the United Nations System in Panama in collaboration with the Embassy of the European Union, the Panama Canal and the Chamber of Commerce of Colon, brought together in Colon for the first time more than 200 personalities with the decision making power to transform challenges into opportunities for a province that has historically been left behind. The activity succeeded in looking beyond the indices of insecurity and poverty, generated conversations on the social economic inclusive development, stories of innovation, of women’s entrepreneurs’ success and showed to the international community that women are agents of change when given just a small opportunity to grow.
The IWD celebration started on the train trip, followed by an excellent panel of women leaders speaking at the sight of the Canal de Agua Clara on the role of women in sustainable development of colon including the digital opportunities. In the opening session, the Minister of the Canal of Panama, Aristides Royo joined the speakers in highlighting the role of women, the burden of care work, the inequalities in the lack of access to STEM education, as well as the gaps that persist for women in society and especially in the province of Colon and showing the enormous potential of the province.
In the words of Jennifer Ceballos, one of the young leader’s panelist, "I am a woman, I am black, I am poor, I am from Colón, and although I had everything against me, I managed to get ahead and create my enterprise". Jennifer's enterprise consists of promoting tourism in Colon, and her leadership and business from Colon was instrumental for the success of the event.
Following the panel, the event continued with a Colon typical gastronomy fair, all produced and presented by women entrepreneurs from the community, that had the chance to tell their stories of hard work and success to the guests.
"Today, we would like to take a closer look at Colon and the role of its women - mothers of families, heads of households, entrepreneurs, youth leaders, artists. We dedicate this day and this visit to all of them. We invite everyone to participate in actions for the development of Colón, so that we can ensure inclusion and equity in the province," reiterated Ana Patricia Gaça, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Panama.
The day ended to the drumming of the Congo dance led by the Congo Queen, the highest authority and represents the strong woman who guided the establishment of the palenques. In closing the Minister of Culture of Panama welcomed all visitors to the Forte of San Lorenzo, UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Caribbean coast of Panama.
The United Nations in Panama together with all international and national partners responded to the call for action of the Secretary General for working together - governments, the private sector and civil society - to build a more inclusive, just and prosperous world for women and girls, wherever they are. They were in Colon, in Panama and on this day, they were in the spotlight a public-private partnership for the sustainable development of Colon.
The following day and in compliance with the recommendations of CEDAW and human rights recommendations and as promises in the National Government's Action Plan, the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, sanctioned the Law creating the Ministry of Women!
International Women's Day in Panama in 2023 will forever stay in the memory of the women of Colón and in the history of the country.