Women gain ground in El Salvador’s politics
Ana Luisa Rodríguez de González has already served four terms as the mayor of Atiquizaya. She won her first election in 2003. In that same year, of the 262 municipal councils holding elections, only 15 were led by women. "These first elections I contested were a two-fold challenge for me", she recalls. "First of all, I was concerned not to let down all those people who had placed their faith in me; but I also felt that if I were to fail, people would not see this merely as a personal failure on my part, but would say instead that women were not up to the task. Many people wondered about that: whether a woman would be able to be an effective mayor".
Participation by women in politics is still in its infancy in El Salvador, but over the last 10 years progress had been made, and more and more women are to be found in political leadership positions.
- For 2015 elections, female representation in El Salvadoran politics will increase at least 30%.
- The training boosted the participation of women in community development associations, organizations and committees.
- From 2003 - 2012, the number of female mayors in El Salvador increased from 15 to 28, representing 11% of the total number of municipal councils.
In order to support this societal change and consolidate the progress that has been achieved, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has initiated training programmes that seek to bolster the capacities of women, while fostering a legal framework that promotes equality through the empowerment of women as political candidates.
"Since 2008 we have worked on various training programmes and the strengthening of political participation by women as expressed in one of the key issues on the agenda of the Millennium Development Goals," explains Xenia Díaz, Gender Advisor for the UNDP in El Salvador, and who is at the helm of the "Towards the Political Participation of Women" project.
It was, in fact, this project that developed the "Political Leadership for Women" short course which UNDP promoted in tandem with the Association of El Salvadoran Women Parliamentarians and Ex-Parliamentarians (ASPARLEXSAL) and in which, to date, a total of 120 women have participated (in five separate graduating classes), including acknowledged leaders in the national political sphere. The Mayor of Atiquizaya was one of the first graduates in this programme and she is mindful that the programme equipped her with the necessary tools to carry out her role in such an influential civic position.
In the words of Rodríguez de González "The training given has provided a significant boost to the participation of women in community development associations, organizations, committees and other influential groups in leadership positions."
The process of change has reaped dividends in various policy sectors. From 2003 to 2012, the number of female mayors in El Salvador increased from 15 to 28, representing 11 per cent of the total number of municipal councils. In the legislature, from 2009 to 2012, political participation by women increased by 8 per cent, resulting in 23 members of a total of 84. This proved to be an historic milestone in that by 2012 female parliamentarians constituted 27 per cent of the legislature.
"The challenges that lie ahead are considerable in terms of participation, but we have to be in for the long haul," observes Xenia Díaz.