On Oct. 27, the 19-year-old could be elected the youngest member ever of the Buenos Aires legislature and, according to her campaign, the youngest lawmaker in Latin America.
Her youth and ability to connect with young voters have drawn comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old congresswoman from New York.
Fernández, who lives with her mother, vows to bring feminism to local politics and to give voice to the thousands of teenage girls who fought for the abortion bill on the streets.
“Is the political system ready for us to enter?” she asked at a campaign event. “The answer is, ‘I don’t care because we will force our way in.’ ” She wore a green hoodie — the color of the abortion rights movement — and was embraced by other young women at the end of her speech.
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¿Está el sistema político preparado para que entremos las pibas? La respuesta nome importa, lo haremos a las patadas. Así es como las mujeres y la juventud ganamos todo lo que tenemos y así también peleamos por lo que falta, porque nadie nunca nos regaló nada. Me lancé emocionadisima. Gracias a @pedrorosemblat por semejante presentación, a mis compas de @vamos.arg_ que armaron todo con tremendo esfuerzo, a mis amigas que me bancan hasta subiéndose al escenario con los buzazos de @_w_t_t_j_ , a les compas del @frentepatriagrande y al resto de los espacios políticos de la ciudad que acompañaron, y a todes les que agitaron ahí conmigo.
In a country where candidates are not allowed to run for the Chamber of Deputies until they are 25 or the Senate until they are 30, Fernandez is running a campaign that embraces the values of progressive youth.
She has pushed for the use of gender-neutral pronouns in campaign materials and says she doesn’t want to get paid as much as others legislators. Instagram, on which she has about 320,000 followers, has become an essential tool for her campaign. Alberto Fernández, who’s expected to win the presidency, didn’t surpass the young aspirant’s Instagram following until the days before the national primaries in August.
Ofelia Fernández’s feed features excerpts of interviews, speeches and memes related to policy proposals — but also pictures of her dancing, drinking, hanging out with friends or explaining that she tends to sleep through her alarm in the morning.
“You reach other people, for better or worse, and you foster agreements or differences,” she told The Washington Post. “The point is that you communicate.”
Fernández belongs to Frente de Todos (Front for All), a leftist political coalition whose most visible face is former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Kirchner, now a senator, is running for vice president to Alberto Fernández; the ticket is expected to defeat unpopular President Mauricio Macri. (None of the Fernándezes are related.)
In Buenos Aires, if Frente de Todos matches the 30 percent support it received in the August primaries, Ofelia Fernández would comfortably win a seat in the legislature.
Luciana Peker, who wrote a book about the abortion rights movement in Argentina, said Fernández’s electoral bid represents the culmination of tension between younger women and the older politicians — men and women — who voted against the law to legalize abortion.
In an impassioned speech last year, Fernández told lawmakers it was their turn to give girls the right to choose. Two months later, senators voted down the bill, 38 to 31.
“None of the male senators [who voted no] were going to have an abortion, and the female senators were no longer at abortion age. That caused a generational rift between young women and politics,” Peker said. “I believe that Ofelia’s candidacy responds to this.”
She’s not the youngest feminist in the race: Magalí Peralta, 18, started as an abortion rights activist and is now running for the Buenos Aires legislature. But her chances to win a seat are seen as slim.
Peker predicted Argentina will see more such candidates as the abortion rights movement cements itself in institutional politics.
Fernández said she has seen this.
“Now when I travel, a bunch of girls tell me: ‘I want to be a candidate, too,’ ” she said.
And in yet another first for Fernández, she will vote in the general election later this month — casting the ballot for herself.
“I think better times are coming,” she said.