The Participation Paradox: Quotas Policy in Latin America
Costa, Ana Alice
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Within the last 20 years, the problem of women’s participation in formal power positions has been mobilising women, especially feminists, throughout Latin America. After over half a century since gaining the right to vote, Latin-American women have recognised that, in practice, this fought for right did not guarantee the right to be elected as well. Indeed, Latin American women have remained marginalised from power, kept from participating in greater numbers in deliberative power structures. In these circumstances, the implementation of quota systems for women in a context of affirmative action policies has figured as a major goal in the mobilisation of women in their struggle for access to power structures. In some countries, thanks to the implementation of quota systems such as in Costa Rica and Argentina, women have been able to effect changes in the balance of power, reaching significant levels of participation in legislative bodies. However, in the great majority of Latin American countries that adopted quota systems, major changes have yet to come through. This is true even in the case of Brazil, despite the presence of a strong and well articulated women’s movement. The objective of this paper, which was presented to presented to the 'Pathways: What are we Learning?' Analysis Conference held in Cairo, 20-24 January 2009, is to analyse these different Latin American experiences with quota systems, identifying the factors that have contributed to their success or failure, the implications for women’s actual access to formal power, as well as the role of women and feminist movements in articulating these demands.