Former Paraguayan Minister of Planning Julia Maciel gave a presentation to students and faculty on Friday, September 14, 2012 on policy reform efforts within her country as well as her experience as a female in a historically-male government.
Brad Parks, co-executive director of AidData at the Institute for Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William & Mary, contacted Maciel for research information. The former Minister of Planning came to the conclusion that it would be beneficial to speak about the political progress of her country to an audience at the College.
Paraguay’s government was a dictatorship for over half a century, and democratic government has only been in place since the middle of the last decade. Although she acknowledged the difficulties of forming a new governing system, Maciel gave a simple and clear plan for supporting a fledgling government.
“Leadership fuels reform,” Maciel said. “A successful leader must have a vision and strategies to achieve this vision.”
Earlier this year, former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was ousted by the government. Although many have seen this as a sign of weakness in the young government, Maciel emphasized that this action was legal and widely supported.
“The absolute majority of government, across five political parties, elected to remove Lugo,” Maciel said. “It is completely fair and legal.”
Maciel, who holds a degree from Oxford University, was precluded from participating in politics in Paraguay until 2004 because of her gender. She became the Minister of Planning the first year that women were allowed to take part in Paraguay’s government.
Although Paraguay has been criticized for lagging behind the world in regard to gender equality, Maciel feels that her country has righted its ways in gender equality.
“I believe that excellence and mediocrity have nothing to do with gender,” Maciel said.
The audience for Maciel’s speech consisted of students and faculty, including Marty Baughman ’16 and Ally Poesch ’14.
“She established a systematic approach to reform that put Paraguay in perspective to Latin America and the rest of the world,” Baughman said.
Poesch wished that Maciel had been more specific about Paraguay’s recent political reform.
“I thought the presentation was interesting but I would have liked her to have given more specific example of her reform strategy. It felt like her strategy could have been applicable in a lot of situations,” Poesch said.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally printed in The Flat Hat student newspaper.