Chapter 01: Who Answers To Women? - Field Stories
Argentinean NGO Translates Information into Action

"During the last presidential election, Argentina reached a new level regarding women's political participation: we now have a woman President, 40 % female representation in the Chamber of Deputies, 39 % in the Senate, one governor. It is a right won by several generations of political and social activists. In spite of these achievements, women still lack influence at the highest levels of decision-making." (Monique Altschul, Executive Director, Mujeres en Igualdad).

Mujeres en Igualdad (MEI) in Argentina is a women's NGO that has placed accountability to women at the core of its mandate. Its campaigns for accountability have targeted all aspects of governance, including political parties and local and national government, and have particularly drawn attention to the impact of corruption on women. MEI has identified the lack of access to information as a major source of corruption and therefore has focused on supporting women to exercise this right in areas as diverse as sexual and reproductive rights, legislative transparency, and political participation.

In 2007, during Argentina's most recent national electoral campaign, MEI and its partners focused on gathering information regarding public and private funding for political parties and drew attention to the unequal funding levels received by male and female candidates. They also conducted an analysis of female candidates' speeches, examined media and party perceptions regarding gender and corruption, and undertook a comparative study of gender equality issues in the parties' charters. MEI found that few parties addressed gender equality or women's political participation, and only one discussed gender issues during its training program.

Another key area of work for MEI has been establishing a network of women's organizations in eight provinces that regularly request information from government offices on vital issues affecting women's rights. These include trafficking in women and girls, compliance with laws and programs on domestic violence and reproductive rights, women's equity in employment, and women's political participation at the local level. During a recent meeting in the province of Jujuy, for example, the women drew attention to issues ranging from free contraceptives gone missing from public hospitals to cases of girls raped as a result of poor street lighting to corruption and gender biases in the judiciary.

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of organizations like MEI, women in Argentina are now at the forefront of efforts to make national and local government more accountable. As one member of MEI summed up, "...as long as we fight gender discrimination, and we fight corruption, we will be able to enforce equality and accountability."