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News :: International
‘Women’s role decisive in Bolivarian process’
21 Mar 2006
Following are excerpts from an article written by Dominican activist Vannia Lara, who traveled to the state of Lara in Venezuela for the first U.S./ Venezuela exchange gathering on Jan. 13-22.
Visit to Venezuela
‘Women’s role decisive in Bolivarian process’

On my first day in the state of Lara and with all the emotion of a newcomer, I did not even notice that it was a co-operative that was in charge of the transportation of our delegation. I had not realized that the co-op president was this very energetic woman, whose better adornments were a baseball cap with the logo of “Lancer@s de Lara” and a contagious smile. I discovered this significant detail during a conversation I had with one of the persons who accompanied our delegation. Her name was Lilibeth.

Lilibeth, whom I remember with endless tenderness and affection, reported that she was the treasurer of the Co-op Lancer@s de Lara. She is a single mother of two sons who was officially unemployed for many years. Lilibeth told me that what is taking place in Venezuela has changed her and her family’s life socially more than economically.

Lilibeth tells me that through “Misión Vuelvan Caras”, which is responsible for culturally transforming the social relations of production in order to guarantee a better quality of life for all Venezuelans, she had the opportunity to complete the two-year study on socio-cultural and socio-economic development. The students who graduate from this program receive help from the government to establish new indigenous units of production that are within the framework of the needs of the community.

As the conversation continued, I was feeling more eager to know about this woman’s experience amidst such an impor tant social process. Lilibeth says that the beginnings were difficult, that she sacrificed many hours of sharing with her two sons to keep up with her studies. Although her mother was complaining and saying to her that she was wasting her time and that she had neglected her children, Lilibeth stayed strong and told her mother that what she was thinking about was her children’s future, and that sooner than later her efforts would pay off.

Thanks to the funds granted by the Hugo Chávez government and after an ardu ous struggle, the co-op to which Lili beth belongs was able to open the doors of their restaurant in a modest local community where the menu is completely affordable for the locals. Also the co-operative was able to consolidate their project of “Tourist Transportation.”

Lilibeth mentions to me with subtle pride that, when she showed her mother the two buses and the two jeeps the co-op had been able to buy, she said to her: “Mother, I told you that our efforts would not be in vain. What other government would have believed in us? Who else would have helped us to obtain this that is now ours and our children’s? ” At the pre sent the members of this co-op are working on a project on tourism with a cultural approach that attracts both foreigners and Venezuelans who live in other states.

A few days later Lilibeth was hit by a car and in less than 24 she showed up to work. The first thing I noticed when I saw her was a wound on her chin, a cast on her leg, and her particular smile. I was alarmed by this sight and asked her what in the world she is doing here in those conditions. I suggested to her to go back home. Lilibeth’s answer was that she is not going away, that for her this is very important since these buses that they had worked so hard on were being used for the first time by this delegation. She said that she wanted to be able to participate until the end and that this was exactly what she intended to do.

During the following days of the delegation our schedule was filled with activities. We visited a large number of different insti tutions, many of an autonomous character. We visited missions, co-operatives, community organizations, urban land committees, Casa de la Alimen ta ción, Mercal, educational forums, cultural events, etc.

We had the opportunity to share with a group of students from Misión Ribas, of which a majority were women of different generations. We also visited many of the numerous co-operatives that cover a pyramid of productive needs like food, textiles, shoe manufacturing, Cuatro (National Instrument). We visited alternative media, Barrio Adentro clinics, among many other places.

The majority of these institutions, especially co-ops, were led by women. It is a fact that, Venezuelan women have a decisive role in this historical process.

This country where as late as in the 1980s, there still existed retrogressive laws which prohibited married women, as well as cohabiting women, to manage their own legal affairs; to make decisions with regard to their children and decisions about obtaining employment; the right of women to own property and to sign legal documents without the authorization of her spouse.

The participation of women and the recog nition of their work by the Consti tution of the Bolivarian Republic of Vene zuela, often called the Non-Sexist Magna Carta, is more than a feminist victory; this is the integration of women and men in a struggle to promote the adoption of new life styles in which the stronghold is the equality, solidarity and cooperativism for all.

The struggle has yet begun; there is still a long way to go. Let’s roll up our sleeves!

-- 30 --

Union labor donated
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