March 8 2019
Piedad Cordoba (left), Sahle-Work Zewde (center), Cristina Fernandez (right)
are major political figures in their countries of origin, | Photo: EneasMx – Reuters
Out of the top 10 countries in the world with women in parliament, nine are located in Latin America and Africa.
Despite remaining challenges, Women have come a long way in politics. Almost a century after gaining the right to vote in most parts of the world, women now have a seat at the table serving as lawmakers and even leading their country’s parliaments. And in this category, Latin American and Africa lead the way.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), as of December 2018 out of the top 10 countries in the world with high numbers of women in parliament, nine are located in Latin America and Africa. Rwanda has the best record for women representation, with nearly two-thirds of its seats currently held by women.
Cuba and Bolivia
The African nation is followed by two other countries with more women in parliament than men – Cuba and Bolivia. The rest of the group is made up of four other Latin American and Caribbean countries – Mexico, Grenada, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica – and rounded out by two more African nations – Namibia and South Africa.
“A world where women have equal opportunities as men in political, social and economic spheres, is crucial towards creating a comprehensive sustainable development and improving the livelihood for all,” Kenyan Senator Sylvia Kasanga said as part of the #BalanceforBetter campaign luanched by the global network of female politicians, Women Political Leaders (WPL).
In the United States, 2019 marked a historic year for the number of women sworn into office in the 116th Congress. A record 127 will serve as congresswomen, 106 Democrats and 21 Republicans according to the Center for Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Names such as Ilhan Omar stand-out as she became the first Muslim congresswoman, along with Rashida Tlaib and Latina Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest elected congressperson in the country’s history.
However, the U.S. is far from equal representation as it stands on the IPU list in the 139th position with 19.6 percent of women in Congress. At the same time Latin America, as a region, has increased its percentage of women lawmakers by 20 percent from 1990 to 2018 reaching 30 percent.
As the World Economic Forum indicates, quotas reserved for women can explain this increase as they are a common factor in many of the electoral systems with more women as legislators and MPs. One of the first countries in the world to introduce such a law was Argentina in 1991.
Since then policies aimed to put forward a certain proportion of female candidates have been applied across Latin America and in other nations in the Global South. Also, the improvement of education access for women has to be taken into consideration.