Latin America & The Caribbean – Women, Power, & Changing Political Representation #latinamericanwomen #caribbeanwomen

By Luis Felipe López-Calva – UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

Graph 2 shows that only fifteen countries in LAC achieved “gender parity” at some point in time in at least one policy arena in the past two decades. For example, two countries in LAC (Nicaragua and Grenada) have had gender parity in the Ministerial Cabinet; two countries (Suriname and Cuba) have had gender parity in the National Parliament; while only Dominica has had gender parity in terms of Local Mayors over the past two decades.
Why does it matter to have women in political leadership? Support of women’s leadership has a normative value in itself and should be a guiding principle in our societies. However, it also has instrumental value by helping to make the system more responsive to women’s demands and aspirations.
Evidence suggests that enhancing women’s representation in the policy arena can help to bring a gender-lens to policy—for example in issue areas such as travel mobility, starting a job, equal pay, marriage and divorce, parental leave, running a business, asset management and inheritance, and pensions.
For example, research on Brazil finds that women’s representation in municipal government leads to the adoption of more “women-friendly” policies in areas such as domestic violence and childcare.
Given the importance of women’s representation in the policy arena both intrinsically and instrumentally—what can be done to accelerate its progress?
Gender quotas (laws stipulating a required share or number of women in political positions) are an increasingly common solution, and perhaps one of the main drivers of why political representation has increased.
However, even where quotas exist, informal norms may clash with formal legal structures—leading to situations in which quotas remain unimplemented or strategically circumvented.

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