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The Summit kicked off with a bang this morning.åŹAbout 200 leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean poured into our opening plenary session, where they were greeted by Summit Moderator and Former CNN International Anchor, Sonia Ruseler.

Throughout the course of the morning we heard from women leaders, including President Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton (pre-recorded), who reinforced the same message: empowering women will uplift nations and change the course of history.

We also heard from the Vice Governor of Buenos Aires, Gabriela Michetti, United States Ambassador to Argentina, Antony Wayne and our own Melanne Verveer who shared insight into the status of women in the region.

Home to 2 of the current 10 female heads of state across the globe, Latin America and the Caribbean have witnessed a visible increase in women’s leadership and participation in the public sphere. Despite such achievements however, it is evident that many barriers to equality remain.åŹ Throughout the region, women are paid less than their male counterparts for performing the same work and domestic violence, human trafficking and other forms of violence against women continue.

In reflecting on the achievements and challenges ahead, participants were hopeful- drawing inspiration from the remarkable keynote address of President Bachelet who passionately outlined some of the ways she hopes to move her country forward and improve the lives of Chilean women.Amongst the topics she discussed were her work to promote equal opportunity in the private sector through transparent pay grades, Chile’s initiatives to lift women out of poverty through early education and pensions for homemakers and her government’s efforts to eradicate femicide.

Following her speech, Vital Voices Board Members and Co-CEOs Melanne Verveer and Mary Yerrick joined President Bachelet on stage to present her with the Vital Voices Global Trailblazer Award in honor of her outstanding leadership.

Over the next 2 days participants will work together to strategize around 5 key issues that will drive Vital Voices’ work in the region.