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Women, Politics and Equality: How do they relate?

dilma.jpg

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

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

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

According to the Inter-parliamentary World Union, the disproportion is staggering when we compare Brazil with Argentina and Costa Rica, for example. These nations present rates of female representation in 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 yourself. For many reasons. I will highlight some. Firstly, sound policies cannot be implemented through the input of only one gender. 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 men and women 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 do good decisions result from a diversity of perspectives – democracy does, too. Democracy cannot be gender-blind. It will be ineffective if it does not strive for fair representation.

Women are half of the population, half of the labor force, half of the voters. Women are far more than half of those living in poverty. Women are far less than half of those in politics.

This proves women need change, in order to achieve equality. They need to be where changes are made. If women are half of the population, any serious development in governance has to involve women. Not because women are better - but because balance is better. 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 speaks 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 sincerely 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.

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Comments

SAsong's picture

Great Job

"...women in positions of power - become a common situation..." I really enjoyed your piece and advocacy for more women at the table setting the agenda. Wonderful!

Thais Moraes's picture

Thanks!

I'm really glad you did. Thank you for your support!

All the best,

Thaís Moraes

nilima's picture

Finally ...sigh

Finally ...sigh hehhehe................. Congratulations Thais:)

Thais Moraes's picture

Thank you!

Thanks a lot, dear Nilima!

Cheers,

Thaís Moraes

nilima's picture

:)

:)

Sarvina's picture

Hi Thais, Wonderful piece -

Hi Thais,

Wonderful piece - women in politic is a such big deal.

xoxo

Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Thais Moraes's picture

Thanks!

Thank you, Sarvina! Your comment means a lot to me!

Cheers,

Thaís Moraes

Fungai Machirori's picture

So true!

"Women are far more than half of those living in poverty. Women are far less than half of those in politics." I loved that bit. Your article reminds me a lot of Sapna's on the Indian president. Please have a look when you can. You were so clear and articulate. This is great! Well done.

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Thais Moraes's picture

Thank you!

Yes, I read hers. We chose very similar topics! It's great to compare my opinions with the position of someone from India. Very enriching, definitely.

Thank you for the encouragement! I really appreciate it!

Cheers,

Thaís Moraes

Alice Kero Wood's picture

Great article

Thais-

Very insightful and thought-provoking. It made me think about my community and state in the US- My town has 1 woman member of a 7-member city council. And, none of my national representative are women! My representative and one senator at the state level are women who do make a difference.

Alice Kero Wood

Thais Moraes's picture

Wow

Thanks for sharing the situation in your community. Very interesting... Gender inequality in politics exists in all countries. It is a global issue and we really have to work together to combat it.

All the best,

Thaís Moraes

rozjean's picture

Thanks, Thais, for a

Thanks, Thais, for a well-artiuclated piece on the necessity of the presence of women in leadership positions throughout the world. Besides being in the position to effect real changes, women leaders can be inspirational role models for young women. There have been instances in the United States, however, when women in "high places" have not been sensitive to the needs of children and the poor, and this saddens me. I hope that in Brazil, Ms. Dilma Rousseff makes a real difference.
rozjean

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Love it!

Dear Thais,

I love the two lines, "Democracy cannot be gender-blind. It will be ineffective if it does not strive for fair representation." and "Women are half of the population, half of the labor force, half of the voters. Women are far more than half of those living in poverty. Women are far less than half of those in politics."

Both of these lines highlight very strong truths and speak for themselves. I particularly like that you point out the areas where we are equal (population, labor force, voters) and point out where we are unequal and highlight the connection between the two. Your article is succinct and solutions-oriented, although I would have liked to have heard a few more things about how the new president intends to make this unusual situation (a woman in power) a norm in your country.

Great job,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Thais,

You make a strong common sense argument for the case of women being included in leadership in government, business for better balance in Brazil. I will be watching carefully for how President Dilma will actuate broader policies to benefit women and girls there.

We - women - need to speak up for ourselves. I hope that she is right as well.

As you discover more that can be done, perhaps you or other women you find along your writings will emerge to represent womens' voices in Brazil. I will be watching for your name. I hear your message and am reposting to my friends in the states. Now if only USA could elect a female President as you in Brazil have done successfully.

Naturally grateful,
Kat Haber

"Know thyself." ~ Plato

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