surinenglish

THE BOTTOM LINE

Electing women

2021 has already become a significant year for gender equality. Estonia became the first country to have both a female elected head of state and a female elected head of government. This small Baltic country has somehow caught up with its neighbour Finland, which is considered a pioneer in female politics. In 1907, no fewer than 19 women were allowed into the first meeting of the Finnish parliament. Since then, Finland has never stopped progressing. Today the country has a young woman in the PM's chair; Sanna Mirella Marin was only 34 when she was elected in 2019. The newly elected Estonian Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, is 43. Both women are far from being "made of iron", and apparently represent a new generation of female politicians to which also Zuzana Čaputová belongs. At 45 Zuzana was elected as president of the Slovak Republic, and is the youngest ever female president.

If we were to assume that such young female leaders are only possible in relatively small countries, then, we would expect other very small states to be also total matriarchies... But this is far from reality. For example, a couple of years ago, Gibraltar was ranked 154th of 191 countries in a study of women in power by the International Parliamentary Union. The Rock was compared even to Iran and Qatar for its lack of women in government. Over the last 50 years, there has only been a handful of women in the Gibraltar Parliament. Despite these past tendencies, in March 2018 a woman in Gibraltar was appointed Acting Chief Minister for the first time, while the CM was in London for Brexit talks. Ironically, that happened just before International Women's Day and the move could have been considered as a political token, or rather just a gift.

Another micro-neighbour of Spain, Andorra, has progressed significantly in recent years. Ten years ago, Andorran women won 15 seats during their country's parliamentary election. The country became the first nation in Europe to have elected a majority female parliament. Before, Andorra had belonged to those countries that were slow to give women legal rights. Women's suffrage was not achieved until 1970. Compare this to the aforementioned Finland, where women were already able to vote in 1906. Even so, Andorra beats wealthy Switzerland, where women did not obtain the right to vote in national elections until 1971.

A country's wealth and development do not always reflect a higher level in gender politics. Nowadays, while wealthy countries compete for the highest GDP, countries like Georgia, Moldova, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Barbados or Ethiopia elect women and give them significant powers. We should also be aware, though, that this might be a façade in countries where women's social standing lags behind men's.

For me, one significant question still remains. Can a woman be a prime minister or president in the giant and powerful USA, China, or Russia, or again, in Britain? And how long is it going to take? Spain seems to be going in the right direction. The recent Socialist governments have even had a majority of women ministers.