One report I found stated that of the 158 seats in the single-chamber Congress, only seven are women. Four of these seven are indigenous women. Given that 40% of the country’s population is classed as indigenous, it is evident that there is still a long way to go to attain a fair representation. However, this month may set the ball rolling and bring about changes a lot more quickly than anticipated. Many are now hoping that Baldetti’s success will pave the way for a future female President of Guatemala.
Not only will her position encourage a shift in the way men regard women in Guatemalan society, but it will also encourage women to believe in their ability to achieve and raise their self-esteem. Baldetti seems confident in her abilities to bring about change, and brandishes the ‘el cambio viene’ slogan on her website, which translates as ‘change is coming’.
The 49-year-old Baldetti grew up in Guatemala City and first graduated with a diploma in Primary Education. After working as a teacher for a while, Baldetti went on to study journalism and later worked as a correspondent and cofounded her own news show, TV Noticias, as well as setting up various businesses.
In a recent post on her Facebook fanpage, Baldetti draws on her background as a teacher and pledges to refocus on education and renovate schools in Guatemala due to the neglect that the education system has experienced until now.
In terms of her political background, Baldetti spent some time working internationally for the United Nations in honour of womens rights, and went on to join forces with the current president, Otto Pérez Molina, in creating the ‘Partido Patriota’. She has worked as a member of Congress for this party since 2004, and in 2009 was elected as General Secretary of the Patriotic Party.
The women of Guatemala have their hopes pinned on Baldetti, and one can only hope that she lives up to her word. In 2010 she was invited to Spain by the International and Ibero American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP), to contribute to discussion about the role of Guatemalan women in the world of politics, which aimed to highlight the quest for respect for women and need for inclusion of women. Baldetti has participated in many additional initiatives to support Guatemalan women and so it would seem that promises to support further projects to improve conditions for women in rural areas and to tackle ‘femicide’ may not be hollow, and 2012 may see her tackle gender inequality head on as her career as Vice President gets underway.
These are exciting times for Guatemala and it will be interesting to see how both Baldetti settles into her role and how the public responds to her. Guatemala, we hope that 2012 brings you great success and many more causes for celebration.