An important milestone in the social agenda of Eduardo Frei Montalva was the creation of the National Office for Women. The entity was responsible for organizing the seminar “Chilean Women and the Changing Process “, which was attended by personalities such as the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Angie Brooks.
The decade of the 60s was the scene of important sociocultural transformations that initiated the road toward greater gender equality in our society. Innovations in technology and communications, particularly radio and television, modified styles, fashions and patterns until then dominant, thus influencing men and women’s behaviors.
It was precisely during the government of Eduardo Frei Montalva that many of these changes took place thanks to various opportunities focused to women integration. One example was the creation of the Central Relacionadora de Centros de Madre (CEMA), an initiative to organize women’s groups under the Popular Promotion program of the former president. The idea was that women would produce products which might then sell through the organization and thereby increase family income.
Undoubtedly the most prominent landmark in the social agenda of Frei Montalva oriented to women was the creation of the National Office of Women (1969), the first state agency that took over the issue and that had as objective ” the full incorporation of Chilean women to the economic, social and cultural developing process of the country¨.
In May 1970 the institution organized the seminar “Chilean Women and the Process of Change “, which brought together different organizations linked to the issue, in order to create “a clear awareness of the active role undertaken by women regarding the deep changes in our society nowadays”.
The activity sought to form a “clear awareness of the active role undertaken by women regarding the deep changes in our society”. Along with this, it sought to determine what direction women should take; their role, their active participation and responsibility regarding a changing process which was breaking “with the traditional rules of life, upsetting the preestablished molds to introduce new values, approaches and actions that strongly affect Family and all aspects of life in which women develop their functions”. Thus, the primary objective of the meeting was the formulation of agreements and recommendations” in order to contribute to the achievement of progress, peace and justice within the respect for the dignity of men frameworks”.
At that time, it was understood that women had specific skills that should be included in the national construction, in the deep transformations that were happening in the world and in Chile, especially related to the reforms that the Revolution in Liberty considered. These initiatives marked a significant advance in the social and civic status of Chilean women, responding to the winds of change that dominated the decade. Within this horizon, the seminar organized by the National Office for Women stands as one of the important milestones to achieve greater gender equality.
During the inauguration, the then Education Minister, Maximo Pacheco, said: “Women have an irreplaceable position and their own capacities to be developed and used for the benefit of the community: sensitivity, intuition, generosity, affection, are conditions that they possess in higher degree than men and, if they develop these conditions, they should enrich the common heritage”.
One of the most prominent personalities who participated in the seminar was the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Angie Brooks; lawyer and nurse from Liberia, who was described by the press at the time as a brunette “very tall, with a big and clear forehead, easy and contagious smile” and “bright black eyes that light up her face.” Her presence gave international importance to the activity and injected a dose of enthusiasm to the female participants. In the words of the UN representative, “the time had come for women to occupy positions that can define policies.”
The seminar marked a milestone in the history of female recognition to achieve equal rights and the creation of the National Office for Women demonstrates the priority of the former President on the status of Chilean women.