In Paraguay’s election on Sunday, Soledad Nunez, a 40-year-old engineer and former minister, is looking to break into the South American country’s male-dominated political arena as its first elected female vice president.
Paraguay – which has a reputation for misogynist ‘machista’ culture even within the often conservative region – has been tough for women seeking to enter politics. Only 15% of lawmakers are women, below the Latin American regional average of around a third.
At the last election five years ago, only one of the candidates for president or vice president was a woman. But there are signs of change, with seven female candidates out of 26 this time around.
“Something is shifting, even if slowly,” Nunez told Reuters in an interview, recalling how when she was a student a university professor had told her engineering class of eight women and over 90 men that ladies should be cleaning the floors and cooking.
“From a young age… I saw very few women in leadership roles, across politics and in industry,” said Nunez, who at 31 became the youngest ever female minister in 2014.
Having a woman at the top will have consequences,” she said. “Just being there is important because it inspires confidence in others to take part.”
Nunez is the vice presidential candidate for the main opposition coalition, hoping to unseat the ruling Colorado Party. Opinion polls ahead of the vote have been mixed and the contest is expected to be close.
If elected, Nunez and her presidential running-mate Efrain Alegre have committed to gender parity in the cabinet. Around a quarter of current ministers are women.