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Rollins College

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Chile: Political Systems and Economic Development


This essay is intended to accomplish a systematic presentation of the postnatal debate that occurred in Chile from 2009-2011 with a specific focus on the role played by social organizations to organize and mobilize the political participation of the citizenry. The thought of an extension of post-natal leave was born in the 2009 election campaign where all candidates, including the current president Sebastian Piñera, advocated for an extension of this coverage. Sebastian Piñera, the first conservative president since the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, not only promised to make maternity leave longer and more flexible, he also pledged to remove obstacles that limit women’s access from entering the workforce. This broad focus, complicated by numerous political and natural disasters, resulted in a drawn-out two-year process of public debate and campaigns for the government to complete their promise. This process drew in nearly all sectors of Chilean society. Although this movement came from a campaign promise it was carried through and given shape by the work of social organizations through the fostering of action by the everyday public. The primary polarities of these discussions were dominated by two viewpoints; the first was a more traditional/biological viewpoint of women with specific focus on the biological functions of women such as breastfeeding. The second, a perspective focused on the rate of woman in the workforce and the equal footing of women in Chilean society. This debate eventually resulted in the unification of broadly-based social organizations in face of a dissatisfactory government bill, notoriety for these organizations in the legislative process and the ratification of a new law which doubled the duration of post-natal leave with conditions that allow for greater coverage and a more equal distribution of parental responsibilities. These results revealed the various methods that can be used by social organizations and the citizenry to play an active role in shaping legislative reform while speaking to the current state of civil society in Chile.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change | Women's Studies