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Gabriela Rivadeneira, Ecuador

Gabriela Rivadeneira became the youngest Speaker of Parliament in Latin America not long after being elected to parliament for the first time. From writing political graffiti on walls as a young person, she has risen to the very top of Ecuadorean politics.

When elected as Ecuador’s first woman Speaker of Parliament in May 2013 in her first-ever term as an MP, Gabriela Rivadeneira broke another record. At 29 years old, she also became the youngest speaker of parliament in Latin America.

Tipped by President Rafael Correa to be a future leader of the country, her meteoric political career began at the age of 16 as a student leader in Otavalo, the small indigenous town to the north of Ecuador where she grew up.

The former beauty queen was interested in politics from an early age and reportedly said she used to go out at night to write political graffiti on walls.   

Gabriela Rivadeneira was first elected to political office in 2004 as a councillor in Otavalo representing the indigenous political movement, Pachacutik. However, she left the party two years later to support Correa in his first presidential term.

After being re-elected to Otavalo council in 2008, she went on to become vice-prefect of Imbabura province before being hand-picked by President Correa to serve as governor of the province in 2011. The same year she was chosen to represent the youth wing of Correa’s PAIS Alliance party, which also paid for her to receive political training in Libya, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile and Argentina.

In a further reflection of her growing political stature, she was part of the delegation which accompanied President Correa to the funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in March 2013.

Gabriela Rivadeneira was thrown into the spotlight when she was nominated top of the party’s list of national representatives for elections to the legislative assembly in February 2013.

As a result, she entered the National Assembly for the first time with the largest share of the ballot, at 3.5 million votes, qualifying her to run for speaker. She won overwhelmingly. Another two women were chosen as deputy speakers of the National Assembly, where 40 per cent of MPs are now women.

“In the next four years, we will work for everyone's well-being. Gone are the days when the division of power meant conflict and political infighting that made the country backward,” said Gabriela Rivadeneira in her inaugural speech as Speaker, adding that she intended to "build a renewed assembly that is closer to the people”.