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Puerto Rico has to move swiftly to become a country where full respect for women represents the foundation of a fair and harmonious society.

Women represent 52 percent of the island's population but their participation in the workforce is limited to 44 percent. According to statistics from the United States Census, their salaries are also substantially lower than those of men.

In female-dominated fields, such as health care, the difference in monthly pay is estimated at $2,350 less than what men get. According to the Census, when considering all jobs, the difference is $2,193. Meanwhile, 53 percent of women in Puerto Rico have unpaid jobs.

This picture of inequality gets even worse with the crisis that has plunged more women heads of households into unemployment, and they depend on government assistance programs to support or take care of their children and homes.  

The scenario is also disheartening for thousands of women exposed to patterns of domestic violence who can't get help to achieve stability for them or for their children. The government must swiftly respond to reports of assaults to protect victims and avoid impunity which endangers the lives of women and girls. The heartbreaking figure of one femicide every seven days must soon be something of the past.

At the beginning of a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence, leaders promoting equity on the island stressed the importance of education focused on eliminating oppressive attitudes and practices against women. This is a major tool for forging significant social changes that will lead to generations that embrace and defend equity, inspired by respect for diversity and human rights. This effort includes online education material to fight gender roles and practices that undermine equity.

Puerto Rico must break myths and stereotypes about women fuelled by a society shaped by male supremacy. Education with gender perspective is an option to achieve this goal. Educating to eliminate the social construction that men are superior to women should be promoted through socialization in homes and in schools, as well as in all institutions that influence the development process of individuals.

In the world of work, it is imperative to achieve business openness seeking to eliminate the gender pay gap. The island can be in the vanguard of that effort, leaving in the past dire indicators such as those documented by researchers like Michelle Budig, who found that in the United States women lose 4 percent of their hourly earnings for each child they have, while men earn 6 percent more.

Although in Puerto Rico, like in other countries, an increasing number of women have higher academic qualifications than men, employers have to move to ensure equal pay in lines where disparity prevails. These barriers must be broken down.

Puerto Rico can lead the way in cutting-edge changes seeking to forge a society of equity, free from any oppressive treatment of women,  a society that defends human rights as an instrument to educate future peaceful generations.