Running for a congressional seat in Brazil is easy, in theory at least. A 1997 law mandates that all political groups must ensure that 30% of their candidates are women, and a Senate bill is proposing to increase that quota to 50%. But it is already hard enough to fulfill those percentages, and even harder for women to get elected.
In a country where women make up 51 percent of the population and where the female president has recently been re-elected, just one of every 10 Congressional seats – both at the federal and state levels – are held by women.
Considering only the Congress, the country has one of the lowest female/male ratios in the world and the fourth lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
In an event promoted by Congress and sponsored by the World Bank, dozens of hackers met for a week in Brasilia to search data and develop websites and apps to help women participate more actively in politics and in society.
At the hackers’ meeting –-whose official name is the Gender and Citizenship Hackathon–- 47 participants from around the country presented 22 projects. Participants also discussed the development of a platform where unknown candidates could publicize their proposals and obtain direct financing from network users.
The tool that won the Hackathon bears the very appropriate name Doña María, a nickname used to refer to a woman with little money and education, who works as a housekeeper or has another informal, low-paid job.
"Women’s representation in the legislative branch is minimal and it is also still restricted to families with money or political contacts,” says programmer Yves Bouckaert, one of the platform’s developers.
This year, half of congressional seats went to candidates who were already representatives. Additionally, just six of the federal representatives receiving the most votes in the 26 states and the Federal District are women, including three former first ladies of their respective states.