Carmen Aguilera Garcia is a freelance journalist from Honduras, living in the Köln/Bonn area in Germany, studying at UNED in Madrid/Spain. The article is based on a blog, which was enlarged and enriched for EUFAJ: in-power-the-case-of-latin-america/, 

EUFAJ: page 60-68. She writes also for Deutsche Welle, Spanish papers and Central American news portals.

 Women Power in international politics and economy is a rather new subject. Discussions are held only since several years about it23. As of January 2017, the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments is 23.3%. A number of countries are exploring measures that may increase women’s participation in government at all levels, from the local to the national. It is, too, necessary for gender parity in our legislation, at least an interim quota for women (as e.g. in boards of big companies). This notion of women’s empowerment is rooted in the human capabilities approach in female representatives, not only to advance women’s rights, but also to advance in national legislatures.

23 On Women in Power in the Eastern Partnership states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) see the publication of the study: :“Women in Power and Decision-Making in the Eastern Partnership Countries“, EUFAJ 2/2016, p. 64, 2016.pdf

European Union Foreign Affairs Journal – N° 2 – 2017, 60

The latest figures of women in national parliaments (only single or lower chambers) of the Americas – as per 1.1.2017, and out of 193 countries indicate that Bolivia is first, with global rank 2 and 53 % (99 out of 130 seats), Cuba is global 3rd, with 48,9% (299/612), Nicaragua global 5th, with 45,7& (42/02) and Mexico global 8th, with 42,6% (213/500). The next one is Ecuador, global rank 11, with 41,6% (57/137), and Argentina, global rank 16, with 38,9% (100/257). To mention another continent: Then comes Germany, with global rank 23, 37%, and 233/630, Six other EU Member States come before this rank.

The following ranks of Latin America are interesting and tell a lot: 

27. Costa Rica – 35,1% (29/57)
33. Grenada – 33,3% (5/15)
36. El Salvador – 32,1% (37/94)
38. Guyana – 31,9% (22/68)
43. Trinidad & Tobago – 31,0% (13/42)
54. Peru – 27,6% (36/130)
59. Dominican Republic – 26,8% (51/190)
[then comes as 62. Canada, with 26,3%, and 33/128)
63. Honduras – 25,8% (32/128)
64. Suriname – 25,5 (12/51)
66. Dominica – 25,0% (8/32)
83. Venezuela – 22,2% (39/167)
93. Uruguay – 20,2% (20/99)
[… and as no. 104. come the USA: with 19,1% and 83/436 in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate with 21%, and 21/100]
106. Colombia – 18,7% (30/166)
107. Panama – 18,3% (13/71)
113. Jamaica – 17,5% (11/63)
… (then some small Caribbean island states)
128. Chile – 15,8% (19/120)
133. Paraguay – 13,8% (11/80)
140. Guatemala – 12,7% (20/158)
154. Brazil – 10,7% (55/513)
… and at the very end:
183. Belize – 3,2% (1/32)
187. Haiti – 2,6% (3/117)

-This is an extract from the tables of the Interparliamentary Union;, which is reproduced at the end of these lines. From the same source one can learn that, in the regional distribution, the Americas have quite a hig score of 28,3% women in parliamentary assemblies (but the
European Union Foreign Affairs Journal – N° 2 – 2017, 61

top are the Nordic countries, with 41,7%), still a bit ahead of Europe-OSCE countries, with 26,4%. However, the EU states alone are a bit better. 

And in the regional parliamentary assemblies there are only 21,6% in the Central American Parliament (led by Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras with 7, 6 and 5 M.P’s); in the European Parliament however the comparable figure is 35,2%, with 259 out of 736 seats held by women. 

Women in the labour force
About 100 million women are in Latin America’s labour force, Labour participation of women in Latin American has increased from 49.2 per cent in 2000 to 52.9 per cent in 2010, and seven of ten working women are in the services sector, where working conditions can be precarious. Of those in the services sector, 64.6% do not have a working contract. 

The same applies to the 34.8%t of those working in commerce. Despite significant progress over the past decades, gender equality remains a challenge in Latin America, where women study more often than men, but earn less. 

In our policies that have in theory reduced inequality and promote the inclusion of more women at the workplace in conditions of equality, women entrepreneurs and micro-entrepreneurs are promoted. This must include more education and training to improve the school-to-work transitions, childcare, division of labour in families, increased social security and respect for labour rights, among others.24 

It is better now, but not sufficient 

One example of Central American countries is Honduras – my home country. With a quarter of woman Members of Parliament, there is at the moment neither equality of payment nor a breathtaking share of women in parliamentary power. But Honduran women ask each day more to require their part of living in the political space. With a share of more than 50% of the entire population, they want to have more than 26% of the participation quote in the parliament. In Latin American politics, women’s work is not always recognized. 

In Honduras, the law on equal opportunities for women had set a quota of 40%, which cannot be reached. According to Suyapa Martinez of the NGO Education Centre for Women this is a radicalizing problem in political participation. It’s just that feminism is not equal everywhere. On 25 January 1955, the Decree of recognition of rights for women in the general election in Honduras to vote was issued during the administration of Julio Lozano.

-24–en/index.htm European Union Foreign Affairs Journal – N° 2 – 2017, 

A year later in 1956 for the first time a woman was elected as a member of the Congress of Guatemala. In the year 1999, of the 960 candidates only 133 women or 11.3% were elected in Guatemala, in Costa Rica 19.3% and El Salvador 16.7%. Peru has a single chamber of 130 congress members, of which 36 are women. This represents 27.7%, which places Peru on post 54 in the global list of women’s participation in politics. Today the percentage in the parliaments of Costa Rica is 35% and of El Salvador 32% – a certain progress of course. But still far away from a 50% representation.

The IPU (UIP) documents on women’s participation in parliaments of 193 countries indicate that, globally, about 23.4 percent of lawmakers are women. In other words, less than a quarter. Election law experts say in this context that mechanisms in the electoral law are not the simple solution.


In women power we have in Central America, in Honduras, Berta Cáceres, she was environmental and human rights activist – she fought for human rights and for a better environment. She only wanted a better life for everyone. What causes machismo? In some companies women are paid less than men and they still have to face sexual harassment. If they lose their job, they do not get any compensation at all. Women are – generally speaking – very often victims of discrimination in Honduras. And Berta Cáceres was killed. Why?

Other example in Honduras: 20 years ago, in Honduras a daughter of peasants had no right to education and could go to school. She had to stay at home, she had to make tortillas, because she is a women and women must stay at home. This is machismo. We as women have of course. the right to better social development. The question of the forthcoming years was: Only because you are a man, have you the right to go to a school, and why I as a woman not?

Other example in the whole of Latin America: Father thinks that because you are a man, you need more money and with this we produced inequality for women. This is Machismo.

Or when women have no right to comment social or political events. This happens very often. Women have to be submissive. „I have not the right to talk!“ – this is very often the case.

Machismo in our current Policy includes another example: the populism machista. 

This kind of Populist Machismo which of course advocates the subordination of women, does not exist in other varieties of populism.

 But it has appeared on several occasions for example in
European Union Foreign Affairs Journal – N° 2 – 2017, 63    

Argentina with ex-president Carlos Menem. Menem said he defined himself as “half libertine”. He said that it is normal for a man to have extramarital affairs. 25

Women presidents


In the executive, the governments, it is interesting; there were some women even in Latin America. For instance a woman who was the first spouse of an Argentine President. At that time, in the 1950s/1960s women had not really political rights. Women like Alicia Moreau de Justo, Julieta Lanteri, Dellepiane Elvira Rawson and others had unsuccessfully claimed the recognition of political rights for women. In general, the dominant male culture considered a lack of femininity which a woman should prevent to comment or make policy. Evita Martínez de Perón, was the first woman to reach the Presidency of Argentina, and assumed the position of President after the death of her spouse, President Juan Domingo Perón. So did Cristina Kirchner of Argentina. Alone and without succeeding their spouses these two women would have never been presidents. By the way, also the only female presidents of Guyana and Panama were the successors of their husband presidents.

However, Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, lawyer and politician, who served as President of Argentina from October 2007 to 2015, was the first woman re-elected to the office. Ideologically a Peronist and social democrat, she was a member of the Justicialist Party, with her political approach being characterised as Kirchnerism.


Dilma Rousseff, who served as President of Brasil from January 2011 being the first lady to hold the position of top leader in the policies of Brasil and following the steps of Lidia Gueiler Tejada (1979), Michelle Barchelet (2006) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007), had been the fourth women elect as president in Latin America.

In 2014, during the presidential elections, the President Dilma Rousseff supported the criminalization of homophobia, citing the „high rate“ of acts of violence against homosexuals in the country. She launched also the“ Light for All“ program, “Luz para Todos”. Rousseff had proposed to accelerate the access to electricity, which had a deadline of 2015, suggesting that 1.4 million rural households would get electricity access. She argued that it was a social, in the Latin America edition of Open Demcracy, 3.10.2016 (acceded 20.5.2017) 

inclusion goal that should be a part of Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) and that it was not possible to assume that such a program would provide a financial return.

And not to forget that she was forced to resign amid a lot of machismo arguments.26 Her successor Temar who was among the drivers of the impeachment proceedings against her is now himself accused of being involved in corruption cases.

Laura Chinchilla is the first President in the history of Costa Rica, Michelle Bachelet Jeria was President of the Republic of Chile from 2006 to 2010, Mireya Elisa Moscoso Rodríguez, in 1999 won the presidential elections in Panama. Janet Jagan Rosemberg became first woman President in the history of Guyana. Rosalía Arteaga Serrano was the first woman in the history of Ecuador in the positions of President and Vice President. Violeta Barrios Chamorra was President of Nicaragua and Lidia Gueiler Tejada was interim President of Bolivia.

Finally, Rigoberta Menchú Tum should not be forgotten. She has become a figure in indigenous political parties and ran for President of Guatemala in 2007 and 2011 and has dedicated her life to publicizing the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous feminists during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996), and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. She was later rewarded with the Peace Nobel Prize.

Economic Power

Women are even less present in positions of economic power. They represent 9 per cent of members of the boards of central banks, 15 per cent of members of the governing bodies of trade unions and 10 per cent of members of the governing bodies of employers’ organisations. Women in the boards of companies registered on the stock exchange are less than 15 per cent. Ukraine, for example, stands out as the only Eastern Partnership country with two women Presidents and two women Vice-Presidents in two of its organisations representing workers.

In a legislation, executive political institutions, political parties, public administration we need not violence and harassment against women. Their share in them remains insufficient. Women in power roles of leadership are very important for actions for equality, development and peace.

Our object is a better the change developments and measures in women’s and men’s participation in power structures, in the single, lower houses of the national, federal Parliaments; promote a balanced participation in political elections (policy). As well as in the local assemblies. There is also a need to change women’s representation in Central Banks, economic ministries, employers’ confederations, labor unions, and of course among the entrepreneurs. This requires education and skills for women leaders – the contrary what they could expect only

see detailed CVs of these women, in Spanish, under presidentas-de-america-latina

10, 20, 30 years ago. Slowly, the situation improves, as we know it also from the EU. But very slowly.

The role of the EU – and what the European Parliament could do

The EU has a certain role for Latin America. Europeans are not engaged the same way as Trump’s United States. There is a general striving in Europe for equal salaries and the fight against violence and trafficking of women. As well it is important that a significant majority of women does not feel discriminated against because of their gender.

Also the European Parliament has a specialised permanent committee on gender issues where everything can be discussed. Parliamentary committees exercise a certain pressure, perhaps their attempt to legitimise themselves, on themselves to deliver results. In my opinion, the European Union and above all ts Parliament should „export“ more knowhow about this committee and the work it does to Latim America. This should be included into the agendas of the relevant delegations of the European Parliament. It should start with questions on education and above all women entrepreneurs and start-ups.

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality discuss interesting topics for decision making processes in EU member states. the gender pay gap requires more than passing laws and legislation or introducing the quota system; it is rather about creating a culture of equality and opportunity in western democracies, above all in the European Union, as at present not much can be expected by the US President (who seems to be more specialised on „pussy grabbing“).

A better solution would the implementation the integration of the gender perspective into every stage of policy processes not only in the European Union, but also in Latin America. It could start with discriminations and inequalities in the labor market. The European Commission follows the dual approach of specific initiatives and gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming is the integration of the gender perspective. 27

Another interesting data collection has been done by the World Bank, with a table on the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (%)28

What has to be done in Latin America? The continent needs action plans and roadmaps for Zero Discrimination against women in economic and social life at the workplace. There should be more references to equal value, as prescribed in Article 157 Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) or of relevant UN employment documents

Every person has the right to live without discrimination. Also women in our political leadership on all levels. Women’s rights must be understood and accepted also by men, like evident facts, so that nobody has to discuss them anymore. The voices of conscience will not be silenced. And also the women of Latin America have the right for their best future and their best perspective.

27 See for instance for this approach 28


Women in Power- The Example of Latin America 


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