How Mexico Became a Gender Equality Leader in Government
Mexico’s ruling party has selected Claudia Sheinbaum as its candidate for next year’s election, pitting her against the opposition’s top contender, Xóchitl Gálvez. The decision means that the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country looks set to get its first female leader in 2024.
“This is a feminist’s dream,” Maricruz Ocampo, a women’s rights activist in Querétaro, told the Washington Post. The election “is going to signify a turn in the way that we see women in politics,” she added.
Sheinbaum and Gálvez both come from STEM backgrounds. Sheinbaum, who is Jewish, is a former physicist and was selected as the candidate for the center-left alliance Juntos Hacemos Historia, while Gálvez is a business woman and computer engineer with an Indigenous Otomí father and a mestiza mother running for the center-right political alliance Broad Front for Mexico.
“They really made it on their own. This is their own momentum and career trajectories,” says Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House.
In many Latin American countries, several female candidates for head of state have been wives or ex-wives of popular male candidates. In Argentina, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took office directly after her husband’s term ended in 2007. In Honduras, the current President, Xiomara Casto, is the wife of former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. And in Guatemala, the runner up of last month’s election, Sandra Torres, is a former First Lady, who divorced her husband Álvaro Colom to get around campaign laws that prevent relatives of the President from running for the role. “I am not going to be the first or the last woman who decides to get a divorce, but I am the only woman to get a divorce for her country,” she said at the time.
Given this context, Mexico’s political landscape is even more unique, Sabatini says. He adds that Mexico is ahead of the curve when it comes to women in politics, even at the lower levels of government, like state officials and members of parliament. Currently, half of all national parliament seats in Mexico and half of the government’s cabinet positions are held by women; the country fares less well on governorships, with nine of the country’s 32 of them being women.