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Centre for Women & Democracy
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Brazil Elects First Woman President

2 Nov, 2010

Dilma Rousseff, the newly-elected President of Brazil, has never held elected office before, but her background is intensely political, and she has served as a minister in more than one administration. She became a socialist in her teens, joining a Marxist guerilla group and being imprisoned and tortured by the military regime she was opposing. She was a founder member of the Democratic Labour Party, which she later left for her current Workers’ Party. She has served in both financial and energy posts, and was most recently Minister of Energy before becoming her predecessor’s Chief of Staff. She is a mother and grandmother, has been married and divorced twice, and was treated for cancer in 2009. Her father was Bulgarian, and that country has recently experienced a wave of enthusiasm for all things Brazilian.

Rousseff has made equality of opportunity between men and women a priority, and has pledged to work for it to become the norm at every level, saying that she " would like parents who have daughters to look straight in their eyes and tell them: 'Yes, a woman can.'"  She will be sworn in as President on 1 January.

That ceremony will bring the number of women serving as President or Prime Minister in sovereign states to 20; the others are in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Costa Rica, Croatia, Finland (both President and PM), Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Kyrgzstan, Liberia, Lithuania, San Marino, Slovakia, Switzerland and Trinidad & Tobago. This is a record number, but still less than 10% of Presidents and Prime Ministers overall.