In September 2017, we launched an online survey asking each Congress candidate about their position on 5 different topics of the gender agenda: political participation, LGBTTTIQ rights, feminist economics, gender-based violence, and reproductive rights. Each category consisted of different set of questions and possible answers could be "affirmative", "negative" or "not answered", like in a real voting process for a bill in Congress. Once we had the scores, we ranked candidates, and the general public could see how feminist their favorite candidates were. Moreover, for each major topic, all candidates were shown along a continuum from low to high commitment. We called this tool "FeminIndex".
FeminIndex was key to discover ideas, trends, and opinions that were not in the public sphere before. For example, we showed that most candidates actually were supporting the bill for Gender Parity, a 50-50 gender quota, in Congress. Also, such information encouraged journalists enquire more concrete answers regarding the legalization of abortion. Last November 2017, the Argentine Congress passed the Law on Gender Parity in Political Representation. In March 2018, President Macri said, during the inauguration speech for the legislative season, that this year legal abortion will be discussed in Parliament. FeminIndex was the first resource in Argentina to show the importance of all these debates together.
What makes this project innovative?
This project was innovative because for the first time we were able to measure each candidate's commitment to topics related to gender issues. Moreover, we were able to present the results of our data-based investigation in an enjoyable and comprehensible way, using data visualization and a card game aesthetic that engaged our audiences. The way we collected the data was also special: we started by asking the main candidates, but after we launched this tool, we also provided a Google form so everyone could send us information about a local candidate that wasn't included in the FeminIndex. When we received that information, we would double check if it reflected that candidate's opinion regarding gender issues and then we would add it to out tool. In this way we were able to collect information from a lot of candidates that we couldn't have reached otherwise.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
These data motivated people to demand more information and public statements about gender issues. As a result of having these data showing the commitment of politicians to women issues, these topics started to appear in the news and in the political coverage of Argentina's 2017 mid-term elections. These topics were absent from the mainstream public agenda before. A non-governmental organization invited us to produce a guide for journalists to interview candidates from a gender perspective. In recent years, the political debate in Argentina had been almost exclusively centered on rhetorical attacks between the major parties, and the publication of the survey and the index opened a new dimension to the discussion more focused on a constructive topic. A proof of it is that as the survey gained traction, a large number (around 60) of candidates started providing their answers themselves, and also changing their public positions.
FeminIndex was not only important in Argentina: Acción respeto (from Costa Rica) has replicated our FeminIndex for their last elections, and an advocacy group from Mexico is currently working on a version for the next Mexican elections.
Source and methodology
At first, we tried to ask each candidate about their position women’s rights. Sometimes they would not answer, so our investigation team would have to search for a previous quote that reflected their thoughts on those subjects. Finally, we launched the index with the answers of the most important candidates and provide a link to a form that every politician could use to send their own statements. This is the online form (survey) we used: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdAOtIRccOvb87Xp8H1BZb95ZO6KzDC8kTbLv4TBYX-q8FGvA/viewform
Each category consisted of different set of questions. Possible answers could be "affirmative", "negative" or "not answered", like in a real voting process for a bill in Congress. Each answer was given a value, and based on it each candidate was assigned a score. The information was generated via our survey by candidates themselves, journalists, and our investigation team.
Mercedes D'Alessandro, Andrés Snitcofsky, Estefanía Pozzo and Lina Castellanos.