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    Bolivia's Health Minister Ariana Campero is one of the highest profile female politicians in the country. | Photo: ABI

Published 5 April 2016

The UN says the South American Andean nation is the leading country in the region when it comes to equality in female representation in its parliament.

The UN has announced that Bolivia is the leading country in the region when it comes to equality in women’s representation in its parliament.

Bolivia is the leading South American nation in the inclusion of women in politics.

"Bolivia occupies first place in the region, and was the first country in South America to adopt parity in its constitution with established rules and laws to reinforce equality," according to Luisa Carvalho, regional director of the Organization of United Nations Women.

The global average for women in parliament stands at 22.4 percent.

Rwanda has the most women-dominated parliament in the world, with women making up 64 percent of politicians.

Bolivia is in second place globally with 53 percent of its parliament made up of women.

However, the political process is different between Rwanda and Bolivia, because in the East African country, the inclusion of women in politics happened after a civil war, "with a high demand in society for women so that they could be active participants in the reconstruction of the country," Carvalho said.

The UN director stressed that in Bolivia the inclusion of women in political life was achieved democratically.

Over the past five years Bolivian legislation has been improved to promote the political participation of women in public-decision making.

Under the new constitution the rights of Indigenous women have been strengthened providing for equal representation between men and women candidates at all levels.

Juana Tambo, a campaigner for women, remembers a time when the majority of Bolivian women were powerless. ‘’There used to be a lot of discrimination, we couldn’t even participate in town council meetings, we were simply shut out,’’ Tambo told teleSUR.

But today the situation couldn’t be more different, women candidates make up the majority of elected representatives in the national assembly.

‘’Women campaigners have worked hard to achieve equality and parity with men in politics but we want even more change and equality,’’ Juana Tambo says.

Maria Patzi Fernandez is a local politician from the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba.

‘’In our legislative assembly we have equal representation of men and women, it's 50-50,’’ Fernandez proudly told teleSUR.

But she cautioned there is still much more work to be done.

‘’We are advancing all the time and making decisions for ourselves but we have still much to improve on’’ said Fernandez.

Four Latin American nations are among the top ten nations in the world for having the highest female representation in parliament.

Ecuador, Mexico and Nicaragua are continuing to make significant strides for parity in gender equality in their parliaments.

‘’This gives us a lot of pride,’’ says the UN’s Luisa Carvalho.

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