Together with Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez, Bachelet embodied the major strides made by women across a region that has passed laws deterring rampant violence against women and set quotas for political participation that have given Latin American women a bigger share of parliamentary seats than in Europe. But now some worry that progress on women’s rights could stall. “We’re seeing a shift to conservative politics that is questioning the advances of the last 15 to 20 years,” said Eugenia Piza-Lopez, who works on gender in Latin America for the United Nations Development Program.
It seems that, no matter whether women are fighting for peace or for war, they must also battle against the assumption that they themselves are passive, weak or peculiar. History shows us that that isn’t true, and that, in the case of Isabella I and Ferdinand V, they could be relentlessly cruel: not only did the royal couple lead the Spanish conquest of the Islamic Kingdom of Granada in 1492, expelling both Jews and Muslims, they tortured those who remained and converted them to Christianity – in some cases burning them to death.
Of the 13 women, six are heads of European countries, two are heads of South American countries and four are their country’s first female leaders. Europe counts the most women in power. Bangladesh leads in longevity – its prime minister Sheik Hasina has been in power for 13 years, accumulated over two terms. Marshall Islands president Hilda Heine is Ardern’s only female counterpart in the Asia-Pacific region and is relatively new to the job, having served just over a year.