As the Bolivian general elections unfolded, a transcendental event for Bolivian women also took place on October 12th: as a result of democratic voting, 48% of the representatives in the Purinational Legislative Assembly will be women – 16 of 36 Senate members, and 65 of 130 members of the Chamber of Deputies.
Bolivia achieved this feat during elections in which the majority of candidates for the presidency, congress and senate were led by women. Additionally, women represented over 50% of the electoral registry used.
These statistics reflect the growing importance of women in Bolivian politics, a result of a long-term effort to do away with gender discrimination and achieve greater representation of women in state institutions. In 1982, when Bolivian democracy was on its first steps, the National Congress had only 3 women (2%).
The struggle for this worthy cause has been going on for a long time worldwide. In 1949, the newly founded United Nations (UN) started to shape what in 1979 would become the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). As stated in its name, this convention encourages all states to reform their laws to promote changes aimed at having a just society. Even though the convention’s achievements have not been similar in every corner of the globe, and there is still a long way to go, events like the one in Bolivia are more frequent every day.
Latin America has several achievements when it comes to gender equality in politics. In 1974, Evita Perón became the first woman to become president of a country (Argentina). Since then, Chile (Michelle Bachelet) and Brazil (Dilma Rousseff) have also had female presidents. According to a study by UN Women, Bolivia is next to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Nicaragua on the leading edge of gender equality in the region.
The important reforms which are needed to advance in this matter can only come from a place of political power. Bolivia’s Minister of Justice, Elizabeth Gutiérrez recently highlighted some of the accomplishments in legislation that have taken place in the country; the Law against Harassment and Political Violence towards Women (243), signed in May 2013, and the Law to Guarantee a Life Free of Violence for Women (348), signed in March 2013, are two good examples.
In Smartmatic, we feel proud of having made a significant contribution to this end. In 2009 we helped with the creation of , providing our technology and services. This electoral registry, which today has more women than men, is a step that could open the doors for bigger reforms to achieve a discrimination-free society, and maybe the election of Bolivia’s first female president.