“We’re telling the opposition that they are crazy, they haven’t reviewed the figures on the protagonistic role of women, and they haven’t even done their homework in order to be able follow up this line of argument. Women are more present than ever in Hugo Chavez’s government. Furthermore, our Comandante has said that women are at the vanguard, without their participation, there will be no socialist revolution”.
This statement was how Nancy Perez Sierra, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, responded to the Venezuelan rightwing who have refused to recognise the advances in gender equality, governmental missions and the new legal frameworks, all developed under the revolutionary process.
During an interview, the director of MINMUJER, Nancy Perez Sierra, urged the opposition to review the newspaper archives for the last 3 years of the Fourth Republic (1958-1998) and to examine the role played by women in them.
“Apart from the beauty queens, there was no other form of protagonism, there were barely any women in the armed forces, nor in education like there are today. There were no grassroots organisations like there are now with the communal councils, with over 40,000 in the country, of which 70% are represented by women. There were no help lines for women to call and there were no courts for gender issues or District Attorney’s office”.
Perez also stressed that three years ago, this government managed to achieve equal levels of teaching for boys and girls in school, and made reference to higher education where the amount of women registered exceeds the number of men, both at an undergraduate and postgraduate level.
“We also have INAMUJER, laws that protect them (women), as well as 11 female ministers in the Presidential Cabinet. Public institutions such as the Supreme Court Justice, the National Electoral Committee, the National Human Rights Office, the Comptroller General’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office: all of these are being directed by women”.
She highlighted that the Bolivarian government had also created flagship social programs which have made advances within participatory politics, overcoming the rigid and neo-liberal form of politics which over the years had consolidated high levels of exclusion.
From then on, the strategy of creating missions has advanced in leaps and bounds in order to solve short term problems, as well as to create the new structural conditions to address the huge problems that were destroying society and making it poorer, in spite of the nation’s immense riches.
Amongst some of the social programs, Perez mentioned mission “Neighbourhood Mothers”, a project designed by President Hugo Chavez which provides women from the poorest backgrounds with 80% of the monthly national minimum wage. These women are selected by their communities and the mission’s objective is to support them so that they can become involved in productive activities and organise politically in order to be able to participate actively in the development of the country.
The minister also pointed out that the Venezuela of today was witnessing a change and a turnaround, directed at the transformation of a predatory and selfish capitalist economic model towards a socialist model based on equality and solidarity.
“The capitalist model reproduces anti-values, and faced with this, some Latin American governments have put the brakes on and said, enough is enough, no more exploiting human beings, and they have been transformed into governments for the people. Amongst these is the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, she is an example of struggle and of transformation. Dilma Vana Rousseff from Brazil, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega and Rafael Correa; they are all presidents that have been transforming and struggling for their nations”.
That is why these governments have been attacked and questioned by sectors of the rightwing, which have even tried to carry out coups.
“But what has happened is that the people have risen up, they have said enough, they no longer believe in the little mirrors, and they are advancing in this struggle towards that socialist model. The role of our President, Hugo Chavez, in this has been vital, unifying and taking up Bolivar’s sword, taking up the liberator’s principles and converting them into a flag for the struggle”.
In view of the upcoming elections that will be held on the 7th of October, Perez stated that the Venezuelan woman will guarantee the overwhelming triumph of President Hugo Chavez, given that he is the leader of the Bolivarian revolution, which had given women their spirit to struggle back, and which has given them true protagonistic participation.
This is why we women defend this revolutionary process, because it is the only guarantee of being able to reach full equality between men and women and of ensuring a dignified future for their children.
Argentina’s Bonafini in Venezuela
Perez also invited the human rights activist and President of the Association for Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, Hebe de Bonafini, to the commemoration of International Women’s Day, who highlighted that women are occupying more and more spaces throughout the world.
“We’re putting all of our efforts into talking to the whole world about what it means to be a woman in a revolution, in socialism; they are the ones who make the journey possible”.
Bonafini stated that Latin America was experiencing great achievements, with transformations in Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
“It is a constant struggle that that these countries have lived through, gender violence is something which is normalised. With the new laws, the work of women and the support of these revolutionary processes, we have demonstrated that we can do this”.
The Argentinean activist who had three sons, two of which were “disappeared” (during the Argentinean military dictatorship), has worked to highlight the struggle against impunity for those guilty of crimes against humanity, as well as to vindicate the lives of the disappeared and pay homage to what they did whilst they were alive and not just to their disappearance. She indicated that in all countries with these transformatory governments, women participate and are the creators of the homeland. They also fight strongly for their rights which are ultimately the rights of everyone.
During her stay in Venezuela, Hebe de Bonafini participated in various political acts, as well as speaking at the conference, “The Struggle for the People and the Socialist Woman in the 21st Century,” in the Municipal Theatre in Caracas, where she was awarded the “Argelia Laya” (named after the Venezuelan teacher and guerrilla, Argelia Laya) by the Minister of Women and Gender Equality.
Before she left for Argentina, she sent a message; “beloved comrades, thank you for so much love. Thank you for showing us that revolution is possible, thank you for fighting for a unified Latin America, thank you for giving us that wonderful president that is Hugo Chavez. What women have achieved in these years with the government of Hugo Chavez was unthinkable just a few years ago”.
After her departure, Nancy Perez Sierra, stated that Bonafini had left experiences and examples behind from her visit.
“There is a school there, there is a life, 35 years which cannot be told in a book but only through living, what it means to be strong and dignified, all the struggles which she had to confront against different powers, different sectors of the government, the church, the courts, and the media,” she concluded.
Berbeo is a journalism graduate and a political analyst based in Venezuela, she also collaborates with alternative media network CLARIN Colombia.