Current president Ivan Duque is keeping his campaign promise to appoint equal numbers of men and women to ministerial positions in his cabinet. On top of that, Duque appointed Marta Lucia Ramirez as the first female vice president in the country’s history.
Beatriz Quintero, head of Colombia’s National Women’s Network, commented, “This is very important in symbolic terms and it represents a cultural change. It will be difficult for future governments to go back on this and not continue with gender parity. A girl can now see a woman vice president and say, ‘I want to be vice-president or president one day.’”
This comes as no surprise to many of Duque’s supporters. During his two-year campaign, the 42-year-old politician appealed to pundits by detailing an in-depth plan for reducing violence against women, promoting women leaders, and creating effective families which incorporate both parents in everyday life.
Of all goals, eliminating violence against women is especially important in the South American republic, where a half-century civil war resulted in a machismo culture that sees 55 cases of sexual violence reported to authorities on a daily basis.
While progress in regards to gender equity has been slow on the local front, with just 15 percent of Colombia’s mayoral elections going to women, many believe that Duque’s actions are a step in the right direction. Jessica Hoyos, a Colombian women’s rights activist, says the change was a long time coming.
“Women have been heard during this peace process because we demanded it. It’s important to have women [in government positions] because I’m sure they can put themselves in the shoes of other women more easily than a man could. They will focus on the sexual violence aspect and how it affects a woman.”
Experts at the United Nations agree and have found that women in leadership roles indirectly promote social and political change in major areas, including narrowing the gender pay gap. Evidence of these claims can be found in countries such as Rwanda, where 64 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women.
President Duque recognizes such change is vital, particularly in a part of the world defined by civil unrest and political corruption. “Peace is something all Colombians yearn for, and peace means that we turn the page on the fissures that have divided us.”
Colombia is far from the first Latin American country to push the envelope when it comes to gender representation in the political sphere. Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia highlight just a few of the Central and South American nations that have elected female heads of state in the past few decades.
As if to echo this progressive shift and Duque’s inauguration, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this week called for member nations to implement legislation and other policies that would advance the role of women in politics, particularly those from ethnic minority groups.
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