Yanibel Abrego Smith | Installation Act - Parliamentary Session, CUMIPAZ 2017
Good morning, honorable Mr. James Matthew Lambert, Secretary of Hemispheric Affairs of the Organization of American States; honorable Mrs. Gabriela Lara, general director of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace; honorable deputy Luis Eduardo Quirós, president of the Commission of Education, Culture, Technology, and Communication of the Latin American Parliament; Your excellences, members of the diplomatic corps accredited in our country; honorable deputy Gabriel Soto, second vice president of the National Assembly of Panama; honorable members of the Peace Integration Summit and Sustainable Development; special guests; ladies and gentlemen of the press.
I want to thank the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace for the invitation that you have extended to me for this Summit that is being held at the headquarters of the Latin American Parliament today.
Over the course of hundreds of years, men fought to create government institutions capable of generating progress and improvements for all members of society. These struggles always had the support of women, despite not being the protagonists of institutional or political leadership.
The woman supported important processes of transformation until the French Revolution, created the conditions so that her situation of inequality in the face of male leadership became more and more visible. The high development of science, technology, and communications contributed to this rise of the human program, as did the vision of humanism that defeated the primitive conceptions of race or gender inequality.
Today, although the statistics do not show the fair balance that should exist in the positions of electoral representation, it is necessary to recognize that little by little society is understanding the need to give more space to women who participate as candidates in charge of popular election.
If we made a historical tour about the participation of women in the political and institutional leadership in Panama, we must begin by recognizing that: for the elaboration of the first Panamanian Constitution in 1904, neither of the two parties that existed in the country, liberal and conservative, took female representation into account in their proposals; that was impossible to think at the beginning of the 20th century. And it was impossible because the level of development of societies at that time did not allow it, even though in 1789 (in the middle of the French Revolution) there was already talk of freedom, fraternity, and equality.
The famous equality proposed by the ideologues of the Revolution would take some years to be accepted as a more advanced form of rational and emotional thinking of men in society. Forty years after the approval of the first Constitution of Panama, two women were elected as constituents: Dr. Clara González and Mrs. Gumercinda Páez. On that first occasion we only represented 3.6% of all the constituents.
In 1972, women who were constituents and approved the Constitution only represented 5.5%; today that participation, forty years later, increases in the Panamanian Parliament to 18%. We may think that the speed of expansion of our participation is very slow, but we must recognize that in other areas we are climbing at impressive speeds.
For example, according to figures from the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, in 2015, female participation in higher education was 63%; likewise, women have increased their presence as an active force in the economy, which to date represents 42%. This situation has also been growing in the management positions of financial and commercial companies.
As a political woman, I have observed that in relation to participation in community issues or in the base of political parties, women stand out in their participation. The same thing happens in parents associations of all the schools of the country. However, these figures are drastically reduced when it comes to assuming greater political responsibility. An example of the above is what happened in the past elections, where the female presence in the electoral offer was only 22%.
I must recognize that the presence of women in leadership of political parties, in the structure of civil society, in companies, in the management positions of the executive body, and in the judicial body, has increased, as a result of the effort and preparation that many professional women who work in these institutions have.
In our case, in addition to the presidency of the Assembly, another woman holds the position of president of the Association of Deputies, and most of the directors of this body are occupied by talented and brilliant women. In the case of electoral posts, it may be necessary to strengthen the mechanisms that allow women greater access to representative structures of power to accelerate that necessary participation, which in many places has left beautiful traces of sacrifice and work.
By incorporating more women into the hierarchy of political power, we strengthen democracy and respect of the human rights; because women's leadership in general is conciliatory, seeks consensus and not confrontation, is in most cases efficient and visionary. Today the new leaders are giving their opinion and participating in new topics: environmental, human rights, education, participatory democracy, cooperativism, cultural sports, and culture, among others.
Evidence of this new interest is observed in the promotion of some national and international programs aimed at supporting the leadership of women such as: the Program for Emerging Women Leaders of the Public Sector promoted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the INCAE Business School.
Finally, I believe that this type of initiatives and international and national dialogues help us set a new course: to new actors that will be frontrunners of the leadership of the future, which seeks peace between nations and people. This leadership will only be possible if it counts on the participation and collaboration of women, who no longer want to follow in the practice of lateral leadership, but in the new vision of hierarchical leadership that emerges from the example and transparency, two aspects that strengthen democracy and respect for human rights.
Thank you very much.
An important contribution on the part of women in democracy and political parties, which Dr. Yanibel Abrego Smith has pointed out, of course, with the historical journey since the French Revolution, but above all the Panamanian case.
It is also important to point out that in 1904, when Panama separates from Colombia and declares itself a Republic, only —she said— between Liberals and Conservatives there was no women in the First Constitution of Panama, but today... in 1975 there is already 5.5%, and today forty years already it has reached 40%, which demonstrates the openness towards participation.
Of course, she pointed out that in universities, in public life, there are more and more women, but she points out that the consideration of greater access is important at the electoral level. Some countries already have the norms of parity: half men and half women in parliaments, such as European, Nordic countries; in Latin America there is still a long way to go.
And finally, of course, as she points out, women's participating more improves democracy. I believe that in the Forums that we are going to have of Parliament, surely the topic of greater female participation in the elections and —as she says— also in the political programs, will be touched.
Finally, the indication that in international organizations there is a greater interest, especially the IDB and other instances, for programs of promotion and participation of women.