Virginia DeFreitas-Battersby

Virginia DeFreitas-Battersby

University of New Hampshire

Political Science & International Affairs


Mentor: Dr. Mary Malone, Department of Political Science

The Barriers between the Kitchen and the Campaign: Women's Political Participation in Latin America

Why don't Latin American women participate extensively in the political sphere? It is puzzling that women do not participate more. In the 1970s and 1980s, women featured prominently in protests both for and against dictatorships. Over five thousand Chilean women clanged their pots and pans to push Allende out of office in 1973. In Argentina, mothers were the most public face of resistance to the dictatorship that terrorized the country. In Guatemala, Menchu and other women challenged dictatorships by leading guerrilla armies. Yet by the late 1990’s this participation waned. My study aims to explain why women returned to the kitchen after such public protest. No Latin American country has met the goal of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) of women holding at least 30% of Parliamentary seats in order to achieve greater gender balance in political representation. I will identify possible reasons why many women prefer the kitchen to the campaign trail. I will examine factors that keep women from achieving political parity, such as cultural/gender attitudes; education; quota systems; leadership positions; national and/or international support; and socioeconomic status. This research will attempt to explain why more women do not participate in the political arena, despite the examples of numerous women's movements that were successful in changing their countries' political course.

Using the World Values Surveys I will do a quantitative analysis of women’s political participation. I will look at specific survey items that measure women self-reported levels of political activity, covering the spectrum from discussing politics with friends to participating in protests. The Latin American countries included in my study are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

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