Women can’t do politics. Women don’t know about politics. Women don’t want to participate in politics. These three statements were outlined as major prejudices facing women’s political participation by the moderator of the Challenges of Women’s Political Participation in Latin America session at the NGO CSW on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Representatives from a variety of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, met to share and discuss the progress and challenges facing Latin American women’s involvement in political processes.
The speakers highlighted the progress women in politics have made in Latin American countries since the Beijing Platform for Action, noting specifically the three current female presidents in South America and an increase of female participation in politics. Additionally, the contributions and potentials of the youth population were highlighted, with the speaker noting that the majority of the audience consisted of young people. Further challenges were identified, including eliminating political violence, which consists of acts, omissions, or other manifestations of injustices, to women. Political violence can take the form of actual physical violence or less latent forms, such as the denial of resources to women, the refusal of political parties accept or support female candidates, or media judgment based on female politicians’ appearances rather than political positions.
In order to combat the various social, political, and cultural forces working against women in politics, the panelists advocated that simply talking about politics with other women was an accessible way to participate. Women can also increase their political involvement by learning about how the political system in one's context functions. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were cited as essential for continuing support for women’s political involvement and movement toward gender parity. The NGOs sponsoring the panel (Red Mujeres, Desarrollo, Justicia y Paz, AC and the Women’s Democracy Network) spoke of the educational opportunities they offer to empower women politically, socially, and culturally so they can spread their knowledge to friends and family in their home communities.
\The panelists from Red Mujeres, Desarrollo, Justicia Y Paz (Red Women, Development, Justice and Peace) and the Women’s Democracy Network ended the session with a question and answer period, where additional challenges and successes were presented, including the prevalence of violence committed against women by other women. The session ended with the reminders that although men and women must work together to achieve gender equity, it is essential for women to support other women.