Paraguayan women fight for political equality 2023

Soledad Nunez, a forty-year-old engineer and former minister, seeks to become Paraguay’s first elected female vice president in Sunday’s election. Nunez is a former minister and engineer.

It has been difficult for women to enter politics in Paraguay, a country with a reputation for a misogynistic’machista’ culture, even in a generally conservative region. 15% of legislators are female, well below the Latin American regional average of roughly one-third.

In the last election, five years ago, only one of the presidential and vice presidential candidates was a woman. This time, however, there are seven female candidates out of a total of 26.

“Something is shifting, even if slowly,” Nunez told Reuters in an interview, recalling how, when she was a student, a university professor informed her engineering class of eight women and over ninety men that women should clean the floors and prepare meals.

Women in Paraguay face an uphill battle to achieve political equality.

“From a young ageā€¦ I saw very few women in political and business leadership positions,” said Nunez, who at age 31 became the youngest female minister ever in 2014.

“Having a woman at the top will have consequences,” she explained. Simply being present is crucial because it encourages others to participate.

Nunez is the vice presidential nominee for the principal opposition coalition, which seeks to unseat the Colorado Party. Opinion assessments prior to the election were inconsistent, and the contest is anticipated to be close.

If elected, Nunez and her running companion for the presidency, Efrain Alegre, have pledged to achieve gender parity in the cabinet. Approximately one-quarter of current ministers are female.

The more conservative party in Colorado has also approved gender equality plans for the cabinet, despite having two men on its ticket.

Former Paraguayan finance minister from the Colorado Party, Lea Gimenez, told Reuters that women face a “tough, hard-fought” process to enter local politics.

“Oftentimes, women who enter politics are less experienced than men, which necessitates a learning curve,” she said. “However, I’d rather make it for having done a good job than for meeting a quota.”

Women in Paraguay have made uneven progress.

In 1961, they were among the last in Latin America to be permitted to vote or register as candidates. In 1992, following the restoration of democracy following a 35-year dictatorship, gender equality was enshrined in the constitution.

In the elections held five years ago, none of the 17 state governors elected were women. In municipal elections in 2021, however, approximately one-quarter of positions went to women.

In 2021, an electoral change was implemented that requires voters to rank their preferred legislators, as opposed to selecting from a closed list; the goal is to create a larger and more competitive field of candidates.

Some women are concerned that this may disadvantage female candidates, who must often contend with fewer political resources and campaign funding.

Senator Esperanza Martinez, 63, stated, “Each candidate will have to campaign independently, resulting in enormous costs for individuals, which is detrimental to female nominees.”

Martinez, a member of the Frente Guasu alliance, is one of 45 senators seeking re-election. Currently, only eight Senate seats, or roughly one-fifth, are held by women, a number she anticipates will decrease after the election.

“There can be a long list of female candidates to choose from, but they won’t be elected if they don’t have national visibility and travel,” she said. Our limited representation in the Senate will deteriorate under this system.

Political activist and politician Lilian Soto concurred, stating, “From now on, you’ll need more resources to become known.”

Martinez stated, however, that the gender parity policy of the cabinet was a significant step in the context of broader debates in universities and businesses over women’s rights, which are frequently advocated by younger generations.

“By insisting on gender equality, the debate is expanded,” Martinez said. However, the barriers to entry into politics remain insurmountable.

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