Policies to promote gender equality make for "more solid" democracies, Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said here Monday at the inauguration of the 7th Meeting of Ibero-American Women Leaders

Over the four days of the meeting, which is being held in Madrid, a score of representatives from Spain and Latin America will gather to discuss matters associated with gender equality.

Besides Jimenez, also participating in the inauguration of the conference was Spain's secretary of state for equality, Laura Seara, and the director of the Carolina Foundation, Rosa Conde, the entity that organized the event.

Jimenez said that it is "basic" for Spanish and Latin American women to work jointly so that there are no setbacks in the area of gender equality.

Citing the risk that with the economic crisis the rights of women might take a step backwards, she urged participants to work to reverse this potential situation and take advantage of the current scenario.

"It's more important than ever for us to be working and strengthening the networks to make our position in the world worth something," said the minister, who noted that Latin America is responding "better to the crisis than the European countries."

She said that democracies will only be "full" democracies if they incorporate policies of equality. "It's a question that has to do with human rights and basic rights," she emphasized.

Jimenez said that 40 percent of Spanish foreign aid was directed toward supporting women and over the past seven years funding for the programs to fight against gender violence and in favor of sexual and reproductive rights had increased by 400 percent.

Meanwhile, Laura Seara said that it was regrettable that in certain countries access to birth control "continues to be a distant reality."