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Women still face gender gap in Latin American, Caribbean politics

With President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s win in Sunday’s Argentine’s election all but assured and a woman leading the largest country in Latin America, it might appear that the political glass ceiling in the hemisphere has finally been cracked.

But from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., women still have a long way to go to achieve parity in politics, according to recently completed gender studies and political analysts.

Only about half of Latin American women are affiliated with any party. And a database compiled by the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance shows that when women run for office, they’re less likely to be elected than men and they still hold relatively few key positions in political parties.

“Political parties play a key role in placing women in political office,’’ said Vivian Roza, coordinator of the IDB’s Program for the Support of Women’s Leadership and Representation. “They are the starting point for greater participation.’’

The database, which includes responses from 94 of the most important political parties in Latin America, also shows that the higher women move up party ranks, the lower their representation. Similar comparative data isn’t available for Caribbean countries, but current figures from the Inter-Parliamentary Union show women also are woefully underrepresented in most Caribbean parliaments.

Only 16 percent of the party president and general secretary posts were occupied by women in 2009 when the Latin American survey was conducted. Women made up only 19 percent of the national executive committees of the parties, and in Chile, Argentina, Panama and Brazil, which all have elected female presidents since 1999, even fewer women were in the party hierarchy.

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