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OAS Held International Forum “Women, Politics, and Democracy: Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Latin America”

  March 28, 2014

The Organization of American States (OAS), in cooperation with the Ibero-American Institute of the University of Salamanca and the Universidad Nacional de San Martín of Argentina, held this week in Salamanca, Spain, the International Forum "Women, Politics, and Democracy: Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Latin America," which brought together over 150 experts from the political, parliamentary, electoral management, academic and international cooperation sectors of 14 countries in America and five in Europe.

The meeting, which concluded today, seeks to broaden the debate on the participation of women in politics and create a plural and diverse platform discussion to identify the barriers women face to participate in political life. The Forum also seeks to generate synergies and propose actions aimed at achieving changes to overcome these obstacles.

Attending the opening ceremony were the Senior Policy Officer of the OAS Secretariat for Political Affairs, Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian, who noted that "there has been significant progress on this issue, but much remains to be done. While the militancy of the parties in the region is comprised by 50.1% of women, their executive committees only have 19%. Moreover, according to UN Women, 22.8 % of women are represented in the legislatures of the Americas; however, they make up at least 50% of the electorate of the countries of the region.” The OAS official said, however, that with the adoption of quota measures and, more recently, with the parity system in countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Mexico, we can be optimistic about the future of women in access to political offices.

Meanwhile, Flavia Freidenberg, Director of the Latin American Institute of the University of Salamanca, stressed "the importance of joining efforts between academia, the political sector, and international agencies to make diagnostics and to identify lines of action and strategic work to improve the conditions of the representation and participation women in Latin America."

At the Forum, the OAS Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) presented the report "Betting on Parity: The Democratization of Political Systems in Latin America, Case studies from Ecuador, Bolivia and Costa Rica," which documents and analyzes the decision-making processes that led to the adoption of parity in those countries, as well as the factors and stakeholders that influenced the debate. The paper assesses the implementation process of such rules in order to identify lessons learned that will be useful to other countries in the region that are considering the adoption of similar regulations. The report was presented by Marta Esperanza Martínez from the CIM and commented by Judge Pedro Esteban Penagos López of the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation of Mexico.

The international forum was attended by leading figures and representatives of political parties and electoral bodies of the region, including María del Carmen Alanis, Justice of the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation of Mexico; Roxana Silva, Counsel of the National Electoral Council of the Republic of Ecuador; María Elena Wapenka of the Superior Electoral Court of the Republic of Paraguay, and parliamentarians from various political parties of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Among the topics discussed at the meeting were the stereotypes surrounding women's leadership; the role of electoral justice in the political rights of women; media coverage of gender issues; culture policy and legislative work with gender perspective; gender quotas or the requirement of parity in candidacies and representative bodies; and electoral observation with gender perspective.

The event was co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation of Mexico (TEPJF), the Argentine Society of Political Analysis (SAAP), the Netherlands Institute for a Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), the Global Democracy and Development Foundation (GFDD), International IDEA, and the UN Women and received financial support from the Government of Canada.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-116/14