Politics Matter: A Dialogue of Women Political Leaders

Report Cover for Politics Matter

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Women’s Leadership Conference of the Americas (WLCA)—a joint initiative of the Inter-American Dialogue and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)—are pleased to present this report on the discussions regarding women’s leadership that occurred at the meeting, “Politics Matter: A Dialogue of Women Political Leaders,” held on November 13, 2000 at IDB headquarters in Washington, DC. We are particularly grateful to the fifty top women politicians from throughout the hemisphere whose thoughtful participation made this forum a success.

The meeting was an important opportunity to gather arguably some of the most powerful women in the Americas for well-prepared roundtable discussions on how to expand and strengthen the role of women leaders in hemispheric affairs—and to what end. They concluded that women are woefully underrepresented in positions of influence and power, and that this is a tragedy for the quality of political leadership in the hemisphere. The group was united in its commitment to prioritize the promotion of women into political leadership, and to advocate for the legal and institutional reforms needed to achieve gender equity across the board. They felt that this meeting was a useful step in that direction. Moreover, the group urged us to build on the conference, and work to formalize a network of women politicians who could meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas, experiences, and offer support and advice to one another.

We want to recognize several important contributions leading up to and following the conference. Ana Milena Gaviria merits special thanks for conceiving the idea of “Politics Matter.” We are also indebted to her for coordinating the meeting on behalf of the WLCA, and spearheading its efforts to launch an interactive website—which will ensure that the personal connections and best practices shared at the meeting do not end there. Finally, we are grateful to Mrs. Gaviria and Secretary General César Gaviria of the Organization of American States for hosting in their home a reception for the Washington policy community in honor of conference participants.

The initiative benefited greatly from the contributions of Mala Htun, research consultant for the WLCA, who served as rapporteur for the meeting and prepared two informative and thought-provoking background papers. We also want to recognize Ajay Bhardwaj of the Gallup Organization, who directed the opinion survey on popular attitudes toward women in power in Latin America. We appreciate the quality research and analysis evident in the Gallup report, which provided an unexpectedly apt underpinning for the conference proceedings.

This meeting would not have been possible without the sustained support of PROLEAD (Program for the Support of Women’s Leadership and Representation) at the Inter-American Development Bank. The members of the PROLEAD team—chief of Women in Development Unit Gabriela Vega, program coordinator Ana María Brasileiro, program officer Vivian Roza, and program assistant Cristen Dávalos—played an integral part in both the preparation and execution of the conference.

Finally, special thanks are due to the staff of the Women’s Leadership Conference of the Americas— WLCA director Joan Caivano and Dialogue program assistant Kelly Alderson—for their contribution to the design and implementation of the conference, and their ongoing efforts to ensure that the momentum begun last November will continue to bear fruit.

Mayra Buvinic
Chief, Social Development Division
Inter-American Development Bank

Peter Hakim
Inter-American Dialogue

Geeta Rao Gupta
International Center for Research on Women


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