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Women in Latin America – 1

To mark International Women’s Day, our newsletters for the next two weeks focus on some of the most pressing issues confronting women in Latin America. While the region does not lack for strong female role models, from activists to presidents, and a vibrant women’s movement characterises much of the region, too many women still leave in fear of violence, abuse and repression. There are many encouraging signs for women in the region. In Bolivia, Evo Morales now has gender equity in his cabinet (read more), Argentina and Brazil have female presidents and a new female candidate in Mexico, Josefina Vázquez Mota for the PAN party has emerged in Mexico, proclaiming herself the next ‘Presidenta’. It is debatable however whether female politicians and presidents significantly improve the situation for women. Gladis Torres takes a sharp look at Mexico’s Josefina Vázquez Mota and concludes that her politics will neither benefit women’s issues nor human rights in general (read more). In a similar vein, Mariangela Paone questions whether the region’s increasing number of female Presidents translates into greater gender equity in other spheres and improves the situation for women in the country. (read more). These questions will be debated further in next week’s newsletter with specially commissioned pieces on Argentina and Brazil. Whatever the changes effected by women presidents, female activists and those involved in the women’s movement in the region are devoting their lives to working for the rights of women and oppressed minorities. This week, LAB has solicited the voices of those involved in grassroots work in Mexico and Central America. Marilyn Thomson’s article in the focus section of the website draws on her work with CAWN (Central American Women’s Network) and its partner organisations in Central America and gives an overview of how the past decade is characterised by escalating violence, abuse and femicide throughout the region. She also describes the tireless work of women’s organisations in the region and the significant challenges they face in their work. (read more). The personal costs of such activism are brought home in the piece by Gladis Torres Ruiz who describes how the founders of the pioneer organisation in Mexico Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa have been forced into exile by repeated death threats and attacks. (read more). Hermann Bellinghausen pays tribute to the life of a unique Mexican woman, La Chapis,—an indigenous activist who played a vital role in the peace talks between indigenous groups and the Zedillo government. (read more). LAB’s Tian Spain interviewed two women’s organisations in Guatemala – Movimiento de Mujeres Tierra Viva and La Asociación de Mujeres de Occidente Ixquic (AMOIXQUIC) – and finds that their work is hampered by a lack of funding, pervasive machista attitudes and a culture of impunity with regard to violence against women. (read more). However, there are also some positive developments. According to IPS’s Danilo Valladares, the newly inaugurated president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, formed a task force in January to combat femicide and violence against women and UN Director for Latin America, Gladys Acosta, has called on the international community to take action against the femicide epidemic. (read more). In Honduras, strong networks of women are found in both Centro de Estudios de la Mujer – Honduras (CEM-H) and Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz ‘Visitación Padilla’. Violence against Honduran women has escalated since the coup of 2009, and police and security forces are frequently implicated in violent attacks, abuse and threats.. In Nicaragua, Gladys Urtrecht from Movimiento Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC) spoke to LAB’s Tian Spain and describes MEC’s long campaign, working with a host of other women’s organisations to pass legislation against violence against women. The law was finally passed on 26th February 2012, a significant step for women in Nicaragua and throughout the region. (read more). In Mexico, a prominent women’s organisation, Semillas, (the only organisation to campaign for and support women’s labour rights in Mexico) describes some of the challenges and successes that characterise their years of work in this field, in a special article written for LAB. (read more). Similar experiences in Honduras and Nicaragua are analysed by Claudia Pompa, in an article commissioned by LAB, which looks at the wider benefits of increasing women’s participation in the labour force. (read more). Other Articles South America In a provocative article entitled ‘The Brown Left’, Eduardo Gudynas says that the progressive governments have turned their back on the green movement. (read more) Argentina Nick Dearden of the Jubilee Debt Campaign expresses outrage at the impunity with which vulture funds are demanding repayment of some of Argentina’s government debt. (read more). Events The (UK) Venezuela Solidarity Campaign is holding a conference on ‘Venezuela and the New Latin America’ in London on March 14th (read more). For other events, go to What’s On. LAB Book Offers Women of Maize: Indigenous Women and the Zapatista Revolution by Guiomar Rovira Synopsis Many aspects of life have changed little since colonial times in the cloudy, misted highlands of the southernmost state of Mexico. In Chiapas women still marry at 13, and are often sold for a few bottles of liquor or a cow. On New Year’s Day 1994 Chiapas was brought to the attention of the world by a very modern insurrection by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). Since the beginning women were integral to the rebellion and later the movement for social justice in Chiapas and Mexico. In this volume the women of Chiapas tell of their hopes and their struggles, and their fight for a more democratic and humane way of life in their state and their country. The account discusses the lives of indigenous women in the state. Personal and testimonial in style, the women interviewed recount their lives as women in their communities and also their part in the struggle to establish and defend the EZLN. Now £3.99 to LAB readers (down from £8.99). Reyita the Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the Twentieth Century by Daisy Rubiera Castillo Synopsis María de los Reyes Castillo Bueno (1902–1997), a black woman known as “Reyita,” recounts her life in Cuba over the span of ninety years. Her story—as told to and recorded by her daughter Daisy Castillo—begins in Africa with her own grandmother’s abduction by slave-traders and continues through a century of experiences with prejudice, struggle, and change in Cuba for Reyita and her numerous family members. Sensitive to and deeply knowledgeable of the systemic causes and consequences of poverty, Reyita’s testimony considers the impact of slavery on succeeding generations, her mother’s internalized racism, and Cuba’s residual discrimination. Reyita actively participated in the life of the community—often caring for the children of prostitutes along with her own eight children and giving herbal medicine and “spiritualist” guidance to ill or troubled neighbors. She describes her growing resistance, over five decades of marriage, to her husband’s sexism and negativity. Strong-willed and frank about her sexuality as well as her religious and political convictions, Reyita recounts joining the revolutionary movement in the face of her husband’s stern objections, a decision that added significant political purpose to her life. At book’s end, Reyita radiates gratification that her 118 descendants have many different hues of skin, enjoy a variety of professions, and—”most importantly”—are free of racial prejudice. Now £3.99 to LAB readers (down from £8.99) Special Offer: Buy both Reyita and Women of Maize for £6 Order via Central Books Best wishes The LAB team

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