By Marco Teruggi
The First International Women’s Congress gathered in Caracas representatives of 110 organizations from 23 countries from all over the world. The idea and plans of the event are a result of the Sao Paulo Forum, held in the Venezuelan capital city in July.
“This is one of the sectorial encounters aimed at stimulating discussions because they are held as something secondary. But this allows us to carry out and fulfill our agreements,” said Gladys Requena, vice-president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) – Women’s Sector, which fostered the organization of the Congress.
This is not the first Congress held here since the Forum. The Worker’s Congress took place in August and the Indigenous Forum is expected to be held soon.
“The idea is, on the one hand, to carry out debates and organize each sector; on the other hand, to ratify the solidarity of the world with the revolutionary project and with agreements aimed at condemning the unilateral sanctions and criminal blockade undertaken by the U.S. imperialism against the Venezuelan people,” Requena stated. The location was decided on for its political significance, just as the case of the Sao Paulo Forum was.
“We are showing to Venezuela that they are not alone, that women of the world are following their cause and that we are present to see the reality they are living. And even more importantly we are here to tell the world why Venezuelan women are defending the process of the Bolivarian Revolution,” said Gloria Ines Ramirez Muñoz, Vice-President for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF).
Representing Colombia, Ramirez Muñoz was present at the opening of the Congress, sharing the stage with other leaders from around the world and representatives of the political directorate of the Venezuelan revolution, such as the President of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
Ramirez Muñoz was joined by Wafi Ibrahim, from Lebanon. As coordinator of the Jose Marti Arab-Latin American Solidarity Association and vice-coordinator of the WIDF’s Arab region, Ibrahim underlined the dimension of the common enemy:
“All the people of the world who have been victims of the same policy and the same aggression adhere earnestly to this type of solidarity because no one wants any nation of the world to live the tragedy we’ve lived in the Arab region as a result of all these plans implemented by the U.S. and Israel.”
About five hundred Venezuelan women attended the Congress. Their delegation was made up of a diversity of political, territorial and state organizations including representatives of PSUV; different Chavista parties; the Ministry of People’s Power for Women; the National Constituent Assembly; members of the Bolivarian Militia; peasants; commune members; women of African descent; soldiers of the Ministry of People’s Power for Defense, which is organizing itself to tackle the issue of gender equality.
There was nationwide representation, from all 24 states of the country, giving visibility to the different expressions of women’s organization and public policies:
“We are able to evidence the situation of women’s rights because there are public policies implemented by the Government to defend women’s rights,” Ramirez Muñoz noted.
In turn, Requena, who served as Venezuelan minister for women and gender equality, stressed that “the Bolivarian Government is fostering public policies for women’s economic, political and social empowerment, as well as policies for the integral protection of women and to guarantee the life of women, boys and girls, such as the right to breastfeeding and humanized childbirth, two major programs we are carrying out.”
The International Women’s Congress allowed a space to get acquainted with policies developed under the Chavista Administration and about that are still being implemented during these times under siege. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro referred to the issue last Friday during an event together with Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez and Gladys Requena. There, he highlighted the policies implemented by the National Government to meet women’s needs starting from pregnancy, through labor and until the child starts school.
One of the targets of the war are women, “We are the first ones receiving the impact of war, in our bodies, in our territories, and in our country,” said Gloria Ramirez Muñoz.
“Women are part of the day to day building of the social fabric of the society,” she explained, and therefore the main target of wars in their different representations. In the case of Colombia, where one of the major goals is to achieve peace with social justice, such attack is expressed, for instance, on the murdering of social leaders, human rights leaders, and most of them are women.”
Regarding Venezuela, where there is a multi faceted war under way, women have come to be the main target due to their key role at home, in the country side, in organizational processes, and political and social mobilization.
“The right wing in Venezuela and abroad, bourgeoisies and oligarchies, have identified that everything is sustained in Venezuelan on women’s shoulders. We are the political target. They are seeking to make us feel depressed, to disconnect us from the Bolivarian project. We are a target of the imperial power because the U.S. Empire has identified the mobilizing strength of women,”Gladys Requena stressed.
“We’ve proven that we know how to resist and that we have an agenda for counteroffensive. We are manufacturing soaps, toothpastes, ecological cloth diapers; we are sowing and producing corn meal. The empire is not meeting surrendered women here. It is meeting women developing her creative capacities and potentiality of struggle.”
“The United States policy of siege, as it is with their weapon of the economic blockade, is not being implemented exclusively in Venezuela”, Wafi Ibrahim said as she brought her voice from Lebanon, in the Middle East, to “shake hands with Venezuelan women and to tell them that we are with them, as well as with a view to develop a joint road map with them”.
“We need to coordinate actions. The enemy is doing it. People who are struggling, who are carrying their cause, should therefore coordinate their steps and yell at the same time and push in the same direction to reach our goal. The enemy cannot find us divided and distanced. We have to understand each other and get closer.”
An aspect of this joint road map will be part of the Government’s main policy according to President Maduro, who delivered a draft of the final statement of the Congress opposing an open war against Venezuela, a threat being posed through diplomatic means now with the Rio Treaty and through actions taken by the Colombian Government and its elites.
Meanwhile, Ramirez Muñoz noted that “We are calling on Colombian and Venezuelan men and women to not be part of hate and confrontation but to strengthen and boost our ties of unity; to revive our joint history and roots; and denounce what has been taking place at the border and condemn that there are paramilitary groups backed by the Colombian State there.”
The International Women’s Congress is expected to provide a road map for actions, discussions and mobilizations in a context distinguished by scenarios of controversies, joint pursuits, and their common enemies.