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The political participation of women on a local level. A case study of the town council of Cercado (Cochabamba – Bolivia)

Ivanna del Rocío PATTON SALINAS student laureate

°1975 Bolivia
Master in Social Communication, Universidad Católica Boliviana, Bolivia, 1999

Participación política de las mujeres en los espacios de poder local/Estudio de caso del Concejo Municipal de Cercado (Cochabamba - Bolivia)

This work seeks to explain why the political participation of women in Bolivia is so difficult. From a formal political point of view, the political system in Bolivia has taken many steps to protect the position of women and to stimulate their political participation. For example, laws unfriendly to women have been systematically dealt with since the 90s. Within the structures of the state there is a directorate for Gender and Family. The Law of Popular Participation includes the aspect of gender. There is a Quota Law stating that at least 30% of all election candidate lists comprise women. In short, there appear to be a considerable number of ‘incentives’ within the political system to stimulate the participation of women locally. However, in reality these formally institutional opportunity structures do not result in more and better participation by women. The writer’s object of study is the tension between the formal intention and the reality.

The writer of the thesis looks for answers by reanalysing Bolivian (political) history from the Incas to the present from the point of view of gender. In addition to this she also makes an in-depth study of the religious, cultural and social patterns and structures of modern Bolivia in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the reticence of women in the public domain. Finally, she examines the ins and outs of the political participation of women in Cercado. The interviews clearly reveal the many barriers women have to overcome in order to play a political role on the one hand and, on the other hand, once they have joined the establishment, to have their voices heard and to be bold enough to play their role within the party, in relation to their political partners and political opponents. The author provides us with a very interesting overview of the different strategies the women have developed in the political world. Indeed, here we clearly see that the women form a heterogeneous group with many different identities and that this results in highly divergent viewpoints, opinions and strategies in the political world. In this sense Bolivian society, with its deep rifts and wide gulf between social economic and ethnic contradictions, makes it very difficult to establish a common gender agenda.

report: Prof. N. Molenaers, Institute for Development Policy and Management, Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium