Women’s Political Participation and Democracy in Latin America

Several elections are taking place in Latin America in the following months. Citizens from Mexico, Colombia and Brazil will be voting for their president, Congress members and state authorities and the outcome of these processes will shape the future of the region over the next decade. This is a strong call for action: women must actively participate in the election process. They must exercise their right to take part in public life and influence the destiny of their communities.

The participation of women in politics is crucial, especially as women represent over 50% of the world’s population. Unfortunately, women are consistently underrepresented as voters, as leaders and as elected officials. Policy and decision -making must be enriched by diversity.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), specifies that State Parties must take the appropriate measures needed to abolish discrimination against women within a country’s political and public spheres. They must ensure that women stand equal to men in their right:

a) To vote in all applicable elections and matters of public referendum, as well as be eligible for election within political and public bodies.

b) To participate in the formulation of government policy, to hold public office and be able to perform all public functions at all levels of government.

c) To participate in non-governmental organizations and associations that concern the public and political spheres of their country.

The last decade has seen an improvement in the level of female political participation in several Latin American Countries. Nevertheless, politics remains one of the most difficult spheres for women to enter. New generations need strong role models, including women who contribute to important political decisions and actively participate in public life. Now, more than ever, women must take action to make gender equality a reality.

Many countries have promoted legislations to introduce gender quotas or parity requirements to guarantee numerical gender balance. These actions represent an important first stride towards diverse and inclusive participation. Nevertheless, quotas alone are not enough to ensure political involvement and equal access to positions of public leadership.

Quotas and parity requirements are a part of a transition towards profound, long-term changes in cultures and their institutions. It is time to envision societies in which men and women contribute on an equal measure to the political life and the development of their countries.

Many obstacles must be overcome in order to change institutions and eliminate deeply rooted social and cultural norms that limit inclusion. Even when men and women may be educated at comparable levels, assumptions and stereotypes about women’s leadership and social roles hinder their full participation in important decision-making processes. Therefore, women’s political empowerment requires sociopolitical reforms and technical capacity development, but it also demands men and women to change their mindset.

Some motivating actions towards promoting the participation of women in public life include:

1. Raising awareness of the importance of women’s participation, leadership and vision in the decision-making processes that shape our world. Women are increasingly perceived as key actors in sustainable development, and as a source of talent and growth like no other.

2. Understanding the importance of cooperation between men and women in the construction of strong, democratic nations.

3. Overcoming prejudices within our own cultures that continue to enforce stereotypical roles of men and women in society.

The decisions that shape our world must include multiple visions. A bright future awaits for those countries in which men and women are given the equal opportunity to participate towards the prosperity and strength of democracies. Change is in our hands.

Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest

Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.

Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.

Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.

Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.

Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.

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