Erika Mouynes at the Atlantic Council Roundtable

In Leadup to International Summit, Panama’s Foreign Minister Calls for More Women Leaders – “Our Planet Demands a Different Type of Leadership”

As the Western Hemisphere contends with democratic backsliding, the impacts of climate change and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Panama’s Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes called on regional leaders to use these overlapping crises as an opportunity to build more inclusive governments that are better equipped to meet the greatest challenges of the next decade.  

Speaking at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center in the leadup to the Ninth Annual Summit of the Americas next year, Minister Mouynes underscored her belief that women’s empowerment is key to achieving progress on the most difficult policy issues. “On conflict resolution, migration, and environmental issues, there’s more willingness [among women leaders] to come to a long-lasting solution,” Mouynes said. “Around the world, twelve percent of heads of state are women… I think that the target has to be set a lot higher than what we have right now. Our planet demands a different type of leadership.” 

As a founding member of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) and the Latin America Group’s candidate for the executive board of UN Women, Panama has long been a regional leader in calling for greater female representation across sectors – especially within leadership circles. More importantly, Panama has matched words with actions. As the pandemic shuttered economies and locked women out of the labor force at a disproportionate rate, the Panamanian government established a microloan program to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, with 70 percent of funds going to women in business. Panama has also setup programs like the Gender Parity Initiative to unlock opportunities for women in historically male-dominated fields, including the science, technology and engineering sectors that will drive the green energy transition.  

Minister Mouynes emphasized that gender equality will continue to be a primary focus for Panama heading into the 2022 Summit of the Americas. Closing the panel discussion, Mouynes called on “[delegates] to arrive at the Summit with a clear action plan” to achieve tangible, measurable progress on gender equality. “I am absolutely convinced that women are the only credible threat to the status quo. So, these hard decisions need to be made if we are to change the course of the planet. All governments should have that accountability,” she said. 

 “Women represent half of the population. If we fail women, we’re failing democracy,” Mouynes concluded. 

Joining Minister Mouynes for the timely panel discussion were Ambassador Niermala Badrising of Suriname, Ambassador Isadora Zubillaga of the Interim Government of Venezuela, and Dr. Tamika Peart of Jamaica’s Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport.

You can watch the full conversation here.