March 16, 2022, New York
By Marta Lucia Ramirez
Vice president and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Government of Republic of Colombia
Thank you Mr. President for the invitation today,
I am Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, I have devoted my life to the service of my country with conviction, patriotic love and commitment. I know the political environment, I was Senator, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Defense and candidate for the Presidency.
And although in Colombia we have achieved important advances in the empowerment of women that put us at the forefront in the region, I can tell you without a doubt that in all countries being a woman and having a public life is not easy. We women must work twice as hard to make our intellectual creation visible. In my country 52.7% of women including me, consider that the exercise of politics is more hostile and excluding for us.
Violence against women in politics, as is often the case with gender-based violence, can take many forms.
In Colombia this violence is considered for the first time as a criminal offense and its definition includes any action, conduct or omission aimed at undermining or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of women’s political rights in the framework of the political-electoral process and the exercise of office.
Physical violence is condemnable. However, often, the marks of such violence are invisible. They do not translate into bruises on the face, but rather in the continued obliviousness of women’s leadership and women’s contributions to the public sphere; many times, proposals, contributions, and public policies that are women’s initiatives do not receive recognition, remain anonymous or appear with the name of a man as their author. We cannot fool ourselves; this is also a form of violence.
On the road to the elimination of violence against women, citizens must demand democratic parties in which women have a presence not only in the electorate, where they are always more than half, but also in the territorial councils, in the municipal and departmental directors, and in the board of directors of political parties. We need an active citizenry that conditioned their vote for parties where women’s leadership is visible in all their management bodies.
Reforms must be demanded to guarantee that women have a parity presence. Otherwise, women face additional obstacles in accessing the necessary endorsement to participate in elections, financing by the political parties or media coverage that is given to their male counterparts.
Only in this way, will we be able to overcome indices such as the low 25.2% participation rate that constitutes the average participation of women in parliaments in the world, or the fact that 119 countries have never had a woman in a leadership position. I am proud that the elections we had this weekend in Colombia were peaceful and showed and increase of more than 10% in women elected for congress.
Another form of violence that is not often talked about and that has profound consequences on political participation, are the disloyal attacks that seek to discredit women in their personal behavior, their integrity or that of their families. Exposure to direct or indirect attacks on their family circle, is disproportionately greater for women; invasions of privacy that are not committed against men are continually resorted to. Being in politics has a much higher cost for women than for men.
I Therefore, those of us who are in leadership positions have an enormous responsibility to, by our example and our actions, sow a path in which the women who succeed us will have better guarantees than those we had. Just as we can open doors, we can also close them inadvertently and that is why the different, transparent and active exercise of politics must be one of the foundational pillars of the efforts to achieve true parity and, at the same time, eliminate violence in politics.
I’m glad that today’s forum gives us the opportunity to discuss the struggle for women in politics. As a leader in my home country, I know how important it is to raise awareness of the obstacles, the barriers, and the problems that we face. And, of course, the need for transformation.
Women are known for their capacity to solve challenges and overcoming difficulties . We are already on the journey to equality, but without men’s support, active listening, and commitment, our efforts will fall short. It is therefore important to find in men the allies that we need to attain equality of opportunities for both genders in the public sphere.
So, I thank you, Mr. President, for your trust and commitment to this cause whose sole aim is to create a more balanced – and thus more sustainable – world. That future will depend on including and give protagonism and voice in all areas to more than half of the population that has always been excluded from political and economic power, the women.
Thank you very much