The first Regional Conference on the Integration of Women into the Economic and Social Development of Latin America and the Caribbean was held almost 40 years ago (Havana, 1977). It provided a regional forum for exchange after the World Conference of the International Women’s Year in Mexico City in 1975, where participants supported the idea of social demands for women’s rights and gender equality (which were starting to spread from country to country) being converted into government commitments. On that occasion they adopted the Regional Plan of Action for the Integration of Women into Latin American Economic and Social Development, the region’s first road map for progress towards the recognition of women’s contribution to society and the obstacles that they face in improving their situation. At that same conference, the Governments gave the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) a mandate to convene periodically, at intervals of no more than three years, a Regional Conference on Women.
In fulfilment of this mandate, over the next four decades ECLAC organized 12 Regional Conferences on Women, first through its Women and Development Unit, then its Division for Gender Affairs. This interaction between governments, with the active participation of the women’s and feminist movement and the support of the entire United Nations system, has become the main forum for the negotiation of a broad, profound and comprehensive regional agenda on gender equality, in which women’s autonomy and rights are front and centre. Policies for development and overcoming poverty have always been a key focus at these meetings. This publication is a compilation of all the agreements adopted by the Governments at the regional conferences and will serve not only as a tool for reference, but above all as a tool for action and for building a future based on the collective memory of the women of Latin America and the Caribbean.