Venezuelans celebrated the 101st International Women’s Day yesterday with events around the country and a large march in the capital Caracas. Activists highlighted gains for women’s rights made under the Bolivarian Revolution, while handing over proposals to ensure gender equality within the country’s proposed new labour law.
“Around 20,000 women are going to march for the defence of our gains and the claim…that there is a leader called [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez that has fought and keeps fighting for gender equality in this country,” declared Flor Maria Garcia, Vice-Minister of Participation and Socialist Feminist Formation for Women and Gender Equality, from central Caracas at the beginning of the march.
Participants in the rally cited gains made for women’s rights and participation under the Chavez government.
These included the Women’s Bank, which gives low interest loans to women and women’s cooperatives, social programs such as “Mothers of the Barrio,” the recognition of domestic labour in the social security system, and the establishment of tribunals dealing specifically with violent crimes against women.
Vice-President of the Social Area, Yadira Cordova, also argued the 1999 National Constitution, passed by popular referendum, gives “rights and visibility to women,” by removing the sexist language of the previous 1961 constitution and giving constitutional status to equality of rights between women and men.
Meanwhile women of indigenous descent who took part in the Caracas march emphasised their role in the campaign for women’s rights and gender equality. “The indigenous woman is also a protagonist of demands for the equality of all citizen rights,” said Rinia Montial from the western Zulia state, of Wayu’u ethnicity.
“We indigenous are mothers, grandmothers, professionals, we are everything, and today we enjoy the same rights consecrated in our constitution. Today, we too are present,” declared Daira Paz, also of the Wayu’u.
Gender Equality Proposals for the New Labour Law
Grassroots social movements also handed over proposals yesterday designed to promote gender equality in the new Labour Law, which Hugo Chavez is expected to pass on 1 May this year after the consultation process has concluded.
The proposals include requesting the state to pay for nurseries, seeking equality within trade unions and workers councils, collectivising household labour, and extending the “right to breastfeeding” period to six months.
Speaking on state TV channel VTV, Daniela Hinojosa of the Feminist Spider Collective explained that the aim of collectivising household labour was to “share with our male companions the household tasks, assuming collectively the labour of the community [and] community food houses.”
She mentioned the importance of this proposal in a context where women head 39.3% of Venezuelan families.
“That means almost 40% of our homes don’t have a male income or masculine representation in the house. It means that parental co-responsibility has fallen 10% from 2001 to 2010,” she emphasised.
International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1911, after being proposed by German communist feminist Clara Zetkin at a conference of women’s activists in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was recognised by the United Nations in 1952, and is celebrated around the globe to mark the continued struggle for women’s rights and equality.