A new 'Feminism Takes' movement is challenging Chile's education system as female students march to demand a university environment free of sexism, harassment and sexual abuse.
Over 30 institutions and hundreds of protesters have picked up the call for university directors to foster programs which promote equality and mutual respect as educators from at least 35 facilities enter their third week of strikes.
Danae Borax, spokeswoman for the faculty of law at the University of Chile, said the movement was born out of students' concerns about the levels of physical, psychological and sexual violence they are exposed to. "An assembly with more than 1,000 women shows that this is a real problem and that is a concern," she said.
After realizing their complaints about gender violence were falling on deaf ears, 600 students decided to launch a protest which has since spread across the nation.
"We have been witnesses of different acts of violence that women constantly experience in every social space, and universities are no exception," one engineering student told La Tercera.
Organizers are calling for mandatory gender-equality training for students and faculty; the curriculum and required reading to be broadened to include female artists and authors; professors to be held accountable for sexist language and off-color comments; to make careers less gender-specific; the improvement of protocol in regards to sexual crimes, and broadening the curriculum to include gender studies.
According to Eva Saavedra, a representative of the coordination of Social Workers of the University of Bio Bio, providing non-sexist education is the least that university heads can do. Inappropriate and sexist "jokes" common in the classroom need to end, Saavedra said.
"There is a large number of serious complaints that never reach port; we ask that the discretion of the prosecutors is lowered and that a centralized office is created to take charge of gender complaints in an integral manner," said Millaray Huaquimilla, of the University of Chile. Including gender studies would help law students such as herself be better prepared to enter the workforce, she said.