By Tara John
October 21, 2017

Women account for nearly half of the global population, but only one in four of the world’s current politicians are female. That number goes down to less than 7% when it applies to heads of government.

Jacinda Adern became New Zealand‘s youngest female prime minister on Oct. 19, but the world is a long way from the U.N. 2030 goal of equal participation for women in government. More radical steps are needed to reach that goal.

In an effort to understand the structural, legal and social barriers women face when entering public life, the Thomson Reuters Foundation followed three women who went against the grain to become politicians in the documentary When Women Rule.

Here’s more about them:

Peris Tobiko, Kenya

Tobiko became the first Maasai woman to be nominated into parliament in 2013 with the ruling Jubilee party. Kenya’s Maasai community, which is an ethnic group that live in the southern part of the country, is largely patriarchal and women struggle to find a voice. Around 78% of Maasai women have endured female genital mutilation (FGM), which Tobiko says has led to numerous deaths due to over-bleeding. “I feel like I need to protect the women, I need to protect the girls” the 48-year-old says of maternal deaths and FGM driving her to get into politics.

Aida Kasymalieva, Kyrgyzstan

The 33-year-old is the youngest female member of Kyrgyzstan parliament. The Central Asian country might be referred to as an ‘island of democracy’ due to its less democratic neighbors, but it suffers from entrenched patriarchal attitudes that has led to around 12,000 girls to be abducted and forced into marriage each year. “We have problems with domestic violence, kidnapping, child marriage” Kasymalieva says.

The country introduced statutory quotas in 2007 that requires a third of all political party candidates to be female. But Kasymalieva’s male colleagues show little interest in participating in parliamentary discussions tackling social, economic and political parity for women. “We need to work in different directions in order to get gender equality for girls” she says. “We should show them that they can work, they can be active, that they’re equal, same as men.”

Soledad Chapeton, Bolivia

Soledad Chapeton thwarted Edgar Patana, the incumbent and ruling party candidate, in 2015 to become the first female mayor in Bolivia’s most politically influential city, El Alto. Once in power, the 36-year-old challenged the status quo by an anti-graft drive in an attempt to right the wrongs done by her predecessor, who was jailed for corruption this July. Not everyone likes her new style and protestors— believed to be her opposition sympathizers— ransacked city hall in 2016, which led to the deaths of six civil servants. “I didn’t run my campaign based on the fact that I am a woman because I think men and women are equally able” she says. “But it’s not easy for a woman to enter political life. That’s for sure.”

This project was co-funded by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) via its Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme (www.journalismgrants.org). Watch the full documentary above.

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