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Brazil's first woman president: The importance of women in Politics

“I’m very happy. I want to thank all Brazilians for this moment and I promise to honor the trust they have shown me,” Ms. Dilma Rousseff told reporters, in her first comments after the result of Brazilian presidential elections was announced, in October 31st, 2010. Among many popular manifestations of support to the new president, we, Brazilians, could look forward to 2011 as a historical and groundbreaking year. We had finally elected our first woman president.

This is a huge achievement for women in my country. With a woman in the highest position of the Executive Power, the expansion of public policies for women are likely to have positive consequences for the human rights and citizenship in Brazil. Dilma’s election reinforces the government’s agenda for gender equality. It undoubtedly represents an advancement of democracy. However, any victory brings with it some new challenges.

One of the challenges is to, in the words of Dilma, make what is now exceptional and unusual become a common situation. Another challenge, that presents itself with more urgency than ever now that this door has been open, is to increase the number of women in decision-making positions, in all representative institutions of society – companies, trade unions, civil society organizations and, first and foremost, politics.

The head of our Executive power is now a woman. Nevertheless, that does not reflect the reality in the Legislative power, for example. Although the minimum ratio establish by the United Nations for the representation of each gender in the Parliament is 30%, Brazil still presents rates around 15%. In fact, it is one of the lowest rates among Latin American countries, despite the leadership position that my country is said to hold in the region in other aspects.

According to the Interparlamentary World Union, the disproportion is huge when we compare Brazil with Argentina and Costa Rica, for example. These nations present rates of female representation in the Parliament around 39%. This places these two countries in the eleventh and twelfth positions in the world ranking, while Brazil is in the shameful position of 106th, among a total of 136 countries.

“Why is the inclusion of women in politics such a big deal?”, you might be asking to yourself. For many reasons. I will highlight some. Firstly, sound policies cannot be implemented through the input of only one of the genders. Women and men tend to focus on different topics - UNICEF says legislatures with more women produce better policies to fight child poverty, for example. Secondly, even when they focus on the same topic, they tend to have different views. Mixed teams are better than single-gender groups at solving problems. In addition, not only good decisions result from diversity of perspectives – democracy too. Democracy cannot be gender-blind. It will be ineffective if it does not strive for fair representation.

And last, but not least: women are half of the population, half of the labor force, half of the voters. Women are way over half of those living in poverty. Women are way less of those in politics.

This proves women need change, in order to achieve equality. They need to be where change is made. Politics is possibly the main venue for that. Issues that mainly affect women - health and reproductive issues, gender equality, childcare policy, poverty, etc. – will be shortchanged if women are not included in the decision-making process. It does not matter how well intentioned are the men in the government. One gender can never fully understand and represent the needs of the other. We - women - need to speak up for ourselves.

Dilma Rousseff is one of the women who are speaking up for us now. As she said in one of her first speeches, “equality of opportunity between men and women is an essential principle of democracy .What gave me more confidence and hope at the same time was the immense capacity of our people to seize an opportunity, however small, to build a better world with it.”

I deeply hope she is right.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

sapnashahani's picture

Hi Thais

Nice work on the story... I have chosen to write about our first woman President in India too, so I would love to hear your feedback. Actually, I am practically rewriting the draft that I posted to the correspondent's group now, so please read the next draft that I will post to my journal, if you have time. I hope these stories inspire more women to get into politics... I'm certainly going to explore the possibility myself since I've learned how grave the disparity is...

Thais Moraes's picture

Sure!

It will be a pleasure to read your text! I am really interested to find more about the situation in India.
I am going to explore the possibility myself too, It is a very important issue, although it does seem very challenging.

Thank you for the comment!
Cheers,

Thaís Moraes

warona's picture

congradulations!

Dear Thais,

Brazil! How are you beautiful hope you are great.

Great work dear! This is a huge achievement for women in my country. With a woman in the highest position of the Executive Power, the expansion of public policies for women are likely to have positive consequences for the human rights and citizenship in Brazil. Wonderful!

I wish you all the best .Cheers!

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Thais Moraes's picture

Thank you!

I am glad you share my happiness about our achievement, dear Warona!

Thank you for your support,
All the best!

Thaís Moraes

HARMONY's picture

“Why is the inclusion of

“Why is the inclusion of women in politics such a big deal?” I would say because women love peace and are less selfish and also are difficult to bribe or get into betrayal. That is why!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Thais Moraes's picture

Yes

Yes, Harmony, we should trust our hopes, not our fears!

In addition to your observation, many specialists say that governments with higher representation of women present less corruption rates.
I agree with everything you said. But I would also like to share my opinion that all these characteristics are socially constructed. I believe men are equally capable of loving peace and being selfless - what we need to do is to change some cultural patterns that establish that men must be aggressive in order to affirm their masculinity.

My opinion is that women are not better than men - we are equally valuable. In politics, it's not the women are better, it's that balance is better.

Thanks for your comment,
Cheers!

Thaís Moraes

mrbeckbeck's picture

Nice topic...

Hello Thais,

I think this is a great topic, and a great first draft! I like how you acknowledge the question of "why", and provide some good responses. You celebrate the first woman president, but clearly say that this is just the first step in a longer journey.

It will be interesting to read and compare your piece with Sapna's! Looking forward to the final drafts next week!

Cheers,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

Thais Moraes's picture

Thank you!

Thanks, Scott! I am happy with your comment. It really encouraged me. And I could see that you really got my message!

Thank you so much,

Thaís Moraes

Insha Allah's picture

Gender mainstreaming

Dear sister Thais,

In a way to reach gender equality, Gender mainstreaming plays in pivotal role. Girls and women in grassroots communities are being empowered. Women who are in vulnerable situations are being supported. What are doing worldwide is exactly great. At the same time, if we cannot reach to such positions where loudest voices can spread across wherever, that would not lead to real change.

You made perfect points. I love your powerful and critical writing.

Best regards,
Insha Allah

Shwe Wutt Hmon

Thais Moraes's picture

Thanks!

I completely agree with you. Thank you for your support!

All the best,

Thaís Moraes

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dear Thais your op-ed is

Dear Thais your op-ed is marvelous and the way you presented is very great. I loved how you raised your question and provided the great response especially when you said: "women are half of the population, half of the labor force, half of the voters. Women are way over half of those living in poverty. Women are way less of those in politics. This proves women need change, in order to achieve equality. They need to be where change is made."

Cheers,
RA

Thais Moraes's picture

Thank you!

I am so glad you liked it. Thank you for the encouraging comment!

Cheers and all the best,

Thaís Moraes

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dear Thais your op-ed is

Dear Thais your op-ed is marvelous and the way you presented is very great. I loved how you raised your question and provided the great response especially when you said: "women are half of the population, half of the labor force, half of the voters. Women are way over half of those living in poverty. Women are way less of those in politics. This proves women need change, in order to achieve equality. They need to be where change is made."

Cheers,
RA

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dear Thais your op-ed is

Dear Thais your op-ed is marvelous and the way you presented is very great. I loved how you raised your question and provided the great response especially when you said: "women are half of the population, half of the labor force, half of the voters. Women are way over half of those living in poverty. Women are way less of those in politics. This proves women need change, in order to achieve equality. They need to be where change is made."

Cheers,
RA

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Great work, Thais!

That's right, women are half of humanity - yet the bulk of the burden and suffering rests on the shoulders of women! Congratulations to the Brazilians for having, at last, a woman president. Starting out something as big as a woman presidency is a tall order, and she needs every Brazilian woman ... and all the women worldwide, to be her inspiration, her strength and her conscience. Only then can she prove her worth! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

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