Celebrating LGBT Economic Empowerment in Uruguay

| By Phil Crehan

From left to right: Tyler Brent, Program Manager – NGLCC Global; Adrián Russo, President – Cámara de Comercio & Negocios LGBT de Uruguay; Magdalena Rodriguez, Vice President – Cámara de Comercio & Negocios LGBT de Uruguay; Phil Crehan, Director – NGLCC Global. Photo credit: Cashman PhotoIn the celebration of NGLCC’s 15th anniversary and during the annual International Business & Leadership Conference, NGLCC Global proudly awarded the Cámara de Comercio & Negocios LGBT de Uruguay (the Uruguayan LGBT Chamber of Commerce) as the International Affiliate of the Year. Since its formation in 2015, the Uruguayan chamber has grown significantly and worked toward the mission of providing business tools for the economic and social development of the LGBT community.

In two short years alone, the chamber started numerous innovative programs, including Tarjeta Diversa, a credit card that offers special benefits to the LGBT community – particularly for transgender people who are especially vulnerable to discrimination. Other innovative accomplishments include gathering data on the LGBT impact in the consumer market – and thus generating knowledge to fill the significant data gaps that often stymie social visibility and empowerment.

Vice President, Magdalena Rodriguez, accepted the award alongside President of the Chamber, Adrián Russo, and remarked, “I would like to dedicate this award to our affiliates, to the Global, to the government of Uruguay, and to the Uruguayan Embassies all around the world for their support. And last but not least, to the NGLCC for helping us create our Chamber”.

The success of the Chamber comes alongside many other progressive changes in Uruguay. In 2016, and for the third year in a row, the country was recognized as the leader in Latin American for socially inclusive policies and laws regarding LGBT people, women, ethnic and racial minorities, and others - as ranked in the 2016 Americas Quarterly Social Inclusion Index.

Even in the international context, Uruguay is considered a champion of the rights and inclusion of LGBT people. In 2016, along with the government of the Netherlands, Uruguay co-hosted an international conference that brought together civil society, governments, and international organizations with the goal to scale-up global advocacy efforts. Additionally, Uruguay co-sponsored resolutions at the UN, led regional efforts to promote rights and to combat violence, and even recently engaged the World Bank regarding the economic inclusion of LGBT people.

However, even with this recent progress, LGBT people still face significant social stigma, discrimination, and violence, which altogether mitigates the terms by which they take part in society. For example, in a 2016 national survey of 853 transgender people, the Ministry of Social Development found that due to limited choices in the labor market, more than 2 in 3 respondents had engaged in sex work. For those who did find formal sector employment, almost 1 in 5 respondents reported an act of discrimination by an employer, while almost 2 in 3 respondents reported an act of discrimination by a supervisor or colleague. Finally, almost half (45%) of all respondents reported an experience of violence – including physical violence – that was due to their gender identity. Altogether, this suggests a cycle of discrimination and violence (driven by stigma) that fuels the occupational segregation of LGBT people – whereby they are shepherded away from formal sector employment and into low-paying, high-risk jobs. 

With this in mind, NGLCC is proud to work alongside the Cámara de Comercio & Negocios LGBT de Uruguay within the larger goals to advance LGBT economic development. In particular, we stand ready to build the evidence base and fill significant data gaps, develop best practices for connecting LGBT-owned and -allied companies with multinational corporations, and work on innovative programs that foster economic inclusion for the most vulnerable and excluded.

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For more information on the Cámara de Comercio & Negocios LGBT de Uruguay and recently held conference on September 27th and 28th, URUGUAY LGBT: Negocios – Talento Diverso – Turismo LGBT (business, diverse talent, and LGBT tourism), click here.