During the years between 1980 and 1999, in the midst of war and
economic crisis, a record number of women were elected to national
legislatures in Central American republics. Can quantitative
increases in the presence of elected women in Central America
produce qualitative political changes?
In this detailed study, Michelle A. Saint-Germain and Cynthia
Chavez Metoyer explore the reasons for this unprecedented political
rise of women, and what effect it has had on the region. Focusing
on Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, the
authors analyze national and regional indicators to evaluate
various hypotheses concerning the reasons for women's electoral
success in the region, as well as to make comparisons with findings
from other world regions. They find that the election of more women
depends on three things: the presence of a crisis, a pool of
politically experienced women, and a culture of gender
consciousness. They also compare the characteristics of Central
American women legislators to women in other national legislatures
around the world.
The authors document how elected women have used their
policy-making power to begin to change the lives of all Central
Americans, women and men alike. In more than seventy-five in-depth,
personal interviews, these women legislators reflect on their
lives, political careers, and gender identities in their own words,
providing deep insights into recent events in this region.
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