top of page

Interview with Cecilia Ananías Soto - Amaranta (Chile)

Updated: Jul 4, 2023
























Ms. Cecilia Ananías Soto

Ms. Cecilia Ananías Soto graduated from the Universidad de Concepción with her degree in Journalism, and later received her Masters in Communication Sciences from the Universidad de la Frontera. Her speciality is in gender and media. She is currently the director of Amaranta, a feminist-based NGO in Chile. Amaranta provides space for and works with the local community to achieve gender equality in various fields such as health, culture, technology, and education. The organization's focus is on women of all races, gender identities, and ethnicities, but are an inclusive space for anyone.



Gender Equality Statistics

Gender Development Index: 0.963

Gender Inequality Index: 0.247

Classification: 2; medium to high equality amongst genders



 

Interview with Cecelia Ananías Soto (Shortened Transcript)

Transcript edited by Elizabeth McVean and Abby Campa


Lanie P

How was growing up in Chile as a girl?


Cecilia Ananías

I think I was a very lucky girl because I had a different childhood. My parents raised me to be a very independent woman since I was a child. I have traveled on my own since I was a child. And they always prioritized my education. Unfortunately, it's not the same for other girls in my country. For example, my main activities, when I was a girl, were studying or playing, riding my bike (I love riding my bike today). But other girls at my school have to be in charge of household chores or taking care of the younger siblings or helping their parents in their jobs so there are different realities, even in the same schools. So, I was lucky, I had more time for my education. It is the same reason why I'm speaking to you in kind of fluent English. For example, in my NGO, only two of us speak fluent English because you have to pay for a better education in this country. I lived around four cities and one of them was Curanilahue, it was a mining city. And when I arrived there, there was a crisis because the coal mines were closing so there was a lot of unemployed people. I saw a lot of alcoholism, violence. a very vulnerable city and I think that's why I started to notice those differences and ended up in an NGO working out gender issues like that.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Did your parents educate you with a very well-defined (traditional) gender role?


Cecilia Ananías

I think I was lucky because my parents had me when they were in college, they were trying to do things differently. For example, my mom had two brothers, so in their house they always treated her differently. She had to do all the household chores and she didn't want that for her kids. And when, for example, my father knew that a boy hit me in school, he made me take karate lessons. That helped me hit back. Poor kid, I am not sure if he had to go to the hospital after that. I had a very different childhood.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

The next questions are about the role that you remember your mother and grandmother played. Could they study? Did they know/accept that they had to stay at home cooking and taking care of the members of their family, how was their life?


Cecilia Ananías

I think I was also lucky, because I was surrounded by working women who teach me to be independent. That was not common. For example, my maternal grandmother was a biology teacher. She had access to that kind of education, and she was from a very poor family but, at that time college was for free so she could study. So, she always gave me books and spoke to me about science. She was a very different grandmother. My mother is a nutritionist. She works in a hospital. For my parents' side of the family, my grandmother was amazing: I admire her a lot. Her family came from Palestine. She was very important in my life. She became a widow when she was 36. Actually, she raised me till I was four years old, because my parents were in college and weren't really prepared to have me. She had to take care of her family business, which was a shoe store in a small town, and at the same time she had to take care of two kids my father and my aunt. I learnt from her to fight, never give up. In her case she couldn't go to college. So, to conclude, the women around me always worked, they were independent and they gave me what I think it was a different childhood.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Do you think that the role of women in Chile has changed during the last two generations?


Cecilia Ananías

I think one of the main changes is access to education. Today there are more women than men going to college in Chile. There are more professional women than ever. But we're still underpaid… Unfortunately, the pandemic has not helped: many women had to go back home to take care of the kids since schools were closed or functioning online. The lack of sex education and the fact that abortion is not completely legal, make their situation even more difficult


Brooke Johnson

I was wondering what your education experience was like as a woman in Chile?


Cecilia Ananías

I started going to public school when I was a child, and I felt like it was too easy because I live in a very vulnerable city and our teachers had to go slower with the other students. When that happened, my parents decided to pay for a better education for me. It is not very common in Chile, but my parents gave me access to that. So, when I was 12 years old, I had to travel to another city to access a better school. I was very young and had to take buses. Still today I love traveling. I went to a private school where I had access to other languages, better mathematics, and better classes and that helped me go to college. When I went to college, it was very hard to pay. I don't know how we paid that. I think some months I lived off rice; I didn't eat anything else. I ate only rice and pasta, so we could pay for college. But when I was in college in 2011 there was a big protest demanding quality and free education for all. Since that process started, we {people of Chile} want free access to education for the most part. Nevertheless, the more vulnerable part of the country still does not have universal education, but it has helped a lot of people after me gain access to college. We are now rewriting our Constitution and we want access to more free things. For example, our neighbor country, Argentina, has free education for everyone. The only thing they pay for is post graduate studies and those are very inexpensive. This is not the case in Chile where everything is very expensive. So that's my experience in education. Then I had access to a masters degree, thanks to a scholarship. That's why I will continue studying and now am trying to get access to a scholarship to access a doctorate program.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Thank you very much. I have another question for you. Adding some ideas as to what you were talking about with education and your own experience as a student. Was it different because you are a woman and did you find that your professors were treating you in a different way, because you're a woman? What was your experience with the rest of the students, what can you tell us about this?


Cecilia Ananías

I could tell you more about when I was in college. My teachers are related to the area of TV. Since I'm a journalist, I have to take those courses. The teachers in charge of the TV area were very sexist. In fact, three years after that there was another protest because we didn't want more sexism. You know, in our education, they treat us differently: they put race and more focus on our beauty standards than our knowledge, it was pretty horrible. And they treat you different in college, thinking men speak more, and they are more listening than women. However, on the other side, I had very good other teachers that helped me get going into my career. I met a lot of really cool women that taught me different parts of my career, so it was something in the balance.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Among your professors, were there more men or women?


Cecilia Ananías

They were half and half, but that only happens in journalism because it's a more equal career here in Chile. If you go to another faculty like engineering or science, or even when they are studying to be teachers, there are more women than men. However, men are in the better positions with higher salaries, and usually women have to teach younger kids. I don't know why, but men look at this professional career like it is something inferior. And I feel like it's really hard to teach younger kids; but yes, women have to work more with younger students and men with the older, and men get the better pay. It has been that way in other careers but in journalism, it kind of was more equal. Actually, when I got my first job, I had most my bosses were women, however, this is a rare case.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

What are the most common stereotypes about women in present day Chile?


Cecilia Ananías

I think one of the most common stereotypes is the identification between woman and mother. If you're a woman, you have to be a mother and if you don't do that, your life doesn't have any meaning. So, I fight a lot with that stereotype. If you want to have kids that's okay, but it doesn't have to be an oppression over you. Imagine that I've been in a relationship for about 12 years, which is a long time. So, everyone is wondering why we haven't gotten married or why we don't have kids and it's because we are having a good time, we are very chill. So yes, one of the stereotypes is that you have to be a mother. However, at the same time, if you are a mother, you are seen as a problem if you want to get a job. If you are a mother you are softer and weaker.

Another stereotype comes from the magazines and TV. This is a country with a lot of variety of races and ethnicities and there's different types of indigenous here in our country, but when you watch an ad on TV, you see really blonde and tall people, like people from Europe. However, that doesn't have anything to do with us here in Chile. For example, I look white from my Arabic side of the family. However, that is not very common and the average Chilean woman has a darker skin tone and is really petite. We are not tall and we have larger hips: we don't have the type of body that we see on the TV. So that is another stereotype that puts a really high bar on women, because we can’t mutate into looking like these other women.


Brooke Sheely

What is your personal experience living in Chile as a woman with the prevalent gender roles in the country?


Cecilia Ananías

I think it has been a fight. I'm the director of an NGO and when I have to go to the bank whenever we need funds, they can’t believe I’m the director. They asked me where the men are. In this NGO, we are only women and it’s all young women, and it's hard to explain that women can create spaces, like this NGO, that we can be directors.

I have also fought what I explained to you about this idea that we have to be a mother, and for me, that is a constant fight. An everyday fight to explain that there are some people that don't want to have kids and that's okay.

Gender based violence is also a very important issue in Chile. Fortunately, I haven't experienced it in a more intimate scenario, but I have experienced that in the streets. Every time I walk along the streets of neighborhood I live, I have to be extra careful what I'm wearing because someone will try to shout something at me or try to touch me. The first time someone touched me against my will, in public, I was 12 years old, and I was wearing my school uniform. So that's pretty horrible. But today, I have to carry pepper spray, and I have my karate skills. But it shouldn't have to be like this. I have to be very stern, so they leave me alone. I want to work in Chile and not to have to be in a defensive way. I told you that I ride my bicycle a lot. I am in a women's group when I go out on a bicycle, it is easier because they also try to attack us. For example, I have friends that were riding their bike and men from the cars tried to touch them and then start the car and get away with it. I am giving a fight because we have the right to walk alone, to ride our bikes alone, to do whatever we want and it's not okay that we need to have pepper spray to walk alone in the street. And by the way, I love walking at night. I live in the Center of the city, and I love going to the park in the night and that's like almost suicide in this country, but I do it with my pepper spray because it’s my right.


Kate Moorman-Wolfe

You've talked a lot about the pressure placed on women in regards to motherhood and then you also mentioned that there's a pretty high employment rate around 53%, before covid at least. I was wondering how that's achieved and if there's a work/life balance for women, or if there is just too high of expectations for women?


Cecilia Ananías

Yes definitely, definitely there are too high expectations of women. Because women have two alternatives. They expect women to be in charge of their houses, of their kids and their jobs at the same time. They have to do everything, becoming superwomen. And some of them fight, but they end up really tired, really exhausted, at the end of the day. And the other option is to say I can’t do this anymore, and they quit their job. That's why you see half of the women trying so hard to access jobs and the other half like, I can't do this anymore, I have to stay at home. But, I don't know any women that are sitting and doing nothing. They do work that isn't paid, taking care of the others, taking care of the kids isn’t paid, but it is hard work. So, we have that problem going on. During the last government they've been trying to implement some policies to help women. For example, they're trying to establish more nurseries or kindergartens and, for example, if a place of work has more than 10 women, it has to have a nursery for them so they can really work and don't have to quit the job because of their motherhood. And there are some programs in schools, so if you have a working mother, you can stay late in the program. That's why we could reach the 53% but then in the pandemic it went down because lots of women didn't have a support system, nurseries got closed, and now we're trying to get that back and continue advancing because 53% is really low. In men 80% of them have access to jobs.


Josh Baniewicz

What are the main obstacles that women and children are currently having to face in Chile, and how are these obstacles impacting their lives?


Cecilia Ananías

I think I have mentioned some. Well, definitely the access to sex education, and that's for women and men. We don't have that in our country and that exposes, women especially, to sexual violence, to unplanned motherhood or parenthood, and to diseases as well. So that's a really big obstacle. But there's a conservative side of this country that doesn't want that, in the schools. Another problem is also, since there's no sex education, there's not easy access to contraceptive methods. Actually, some of the pills, hormonal pills, are given for free in hospitals. But during the pandemic some of these factories had problems in the manufacturing. And that led to about 500 unplanned pregnancies. Another problem is that women who are really young have to take care of household chores or taking care of other people like the younger siblings. And in this situation their education is not a priority. They have to go through a lot of obstacles. Even so, more and more women go to college, today there's more women in college. But we still have a very important gender pay gap. So women go to college, study a lot, they begin to work, but they make less money, and only because they have a uterus that they may or may not use. And since there’s still disbelief, this stereotype, women in the household, taking care of other people, they have more problems keeping those jobs or pursuing their dreams or having free time. Since they are more dedicated to the house and the children, they rarely have time to themselves. I think those are some of the barriers. I know there’s more, but I could be talking for hours.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Thank you very much Elizabeth. Well, I have two questions. In 2006 Chile elected the first woman president of the country, Michelle Bachalet, and let me tell you that I admire her very much. So, how much has having a president like Michelle Bachalet, helped to improve the situation of women, in this case, in your country Chile?


Cecilia Ananías

She also was the first minister and then she became president and she did it twice. So, I remember the first time Chile elected her. A lot of men were saying that she won't be able to do the job because women are softer, they don’t have the ability to lead a country. And she could demonstrate just the opposite. I think a lot of girls, seeing her as the president of Chile, believed that it is possible for women to be in politics. It was a very male dominant area, and after her it has not been anymore. Actually, today we are rewriting our constitution and there are more women than men in the Constitutional Assembly. So that was great. But then on the other side there's some criticism towards Michelle Bachelet because she didn't help indigenous women. She was really rough with the situation that is going on here in the South of Chile. The main indigenous population is the Mapuche people. They are known for being feisty people. They defeated the Spanish conquerors many, many times. They are always giving a fight. Until today, they are trying to recover the lands that Chile took from them. So there’s a civil struggle now, and indigenous women found that Mitchell Bachelet didn't help them


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

So what I understand is that you were telling us that in the constitutional assembly, writing the new Chilean constitution, there are more women than men. Is that correct?


Cecilia Ananías

There were more women elected, but then because of this equality system, they had to prorate. It’s a complicated system. But now there's more than 50% men and the rest are women. It seems that we created the system to help women, and its implementation is helping men.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Do you think that the presidency of Ms. Bachelet was important for some women to decide to run for a seat in Parliament or this attitude already existed in Chile before the presidency of Bachelet?


Cecilia Ananías

I think that with seeing Bachelet in power made more women to be involved in politics. But before that, and during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1989), many brave women were very active as part of the opposition to the regime. Later, during the 1990s, Chilean women were less active, and it was the election of Michelle Bachelet that reminded us that we should be more active.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

During our conversation, you have referred to gender-based violence as one of the most important problems that women face in Chile right now. What is the origin of gender-based violence in Chile?


Cecilia Ananías

I think our situation is not as bad as the situation of women in Brazil or Mexico. That does not mean that the situation is good either. I think this is a global problem. Gender inequalities have a history, really long roots, and we have to cut that tree down. Women have to work together to deal with this issue. Sometimes, at least here in Chile, our government or the judicial do not help us. Some victims don't get help in time and get killed.


Sterling soto

What are some of the programs and services provided by Amaranta?


Cecilia Ananías

We founded this NGO to educate about gender, gender violence, inequality stereotypes, and other things like that. Before creating Amaranta, I was in other feminist groups trying to help women, above all those who were victims of gender-based violence. It was very hard. Those broken women we were trying to help have been listening for years that they were not worth anything. We needed to create a network in the neighborhood to protect them in case the perpetrator came back. It's a really hard work, so we tried to meet these women before they began to suffer this situation and helped them to prevent violence. That's why we are so focused on a location. We do workshops, and we are involved in investigations also. For example, I specialize in gender violence on the Internet. When I started Amaranta with a colleague there weren't numbers or figures about it in the whole country. Nobody counted how many women were suffering sexual harassment on the Internet, so to prevent it, we had to investigate and then educate them on that subject. So yes, our main goal is education. We offer a lot of services oriented to that. Some of our activities are for free.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Unfortunately, we have to finish the interview. We do not have more time. Thank you very much. It has been an honor to talk with you. Thank you for doing what you are doing in Chile. It is very, very important.


Abby Campa

I just want to say thank you so much for your time and your answers.


Elizabeth McVean

Yes, thank you so much.


51 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Commenti


bottom of page