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The one place where abortion isn't taboo

By Tamara Pearson
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Last Saturday I went to a meeting of the "Ideological formation and attention for women centre", which as far as I can tell is the only decent feminist organisation fighting for women here- the rest are all wishy washy organisations that do what ever Chavez says (or see supporting Chavez in elections as feminist activity), and mostly see feminist stuff as fighting against violence and poverty (which it is) but not challenging women's role in society (mother, active in the background only, cooking, caring, object of beauty) and generally against abortion. As the woman who was telling me the history of the group said "We organise activities for women's rights, not for women as mothers or as housewives."

This group was formed in 1992 and has always been independent of the government, constantly battling to stay alive financially, obtaining office space (for meetings, teach ins, and sexual assistance- abortions, gynaecology consultations as well as an open space where any women with problems could drop in, and constantly getting kicked out of that office space, as well as internal political disagreements that saw the group split awhile ago into a ‘Women's house' in Ejido, and the more campaigning and education oriented group in Merida.

On top of that people have constantly abused what money they did receive- such as donations from Belgium where the woman in charge misspent the money on other things. In general they have survived by paying for things out of their own pockets.

This meeting had 6 women at it, 3 of which have been in the organisation pretty much from the start, and 2 somewhat younger women, plus me. There were 3 main points of discussion:

*things to buy (a sign to put down stairs: the office is conveniently located right on the main plaza, but upstairs and out of sight, a few more chairs etc)

*publicity: organising a campaign against sexist imagery and language in the papers. A lot of papers use virtually pornographic images of women- supposedly next to an article about exercise or something, to sell themselves. Combining this with a campaign against the beauty contest that is a central part of the annual Feria del Sol, coming up next month (see my entries on that last year).

*workshops: We decided on a range of themed workshops which would be aimed at teenagers, including: sexual education, the (new) law against gender based violence, rights of women, sexist language, religion and women, women and revolution (which was assigned to me to give, eek), women and community organisations and cooperatives...

We also discussed meeting with a range of the women's organisations to coordinate some of this, and 8 March (international women's day).

Frankly, it was one of the best meetings I've been to in a while, with lots of concrete decisions made, little venting, and it was just really nice to be around women who talk about the right to abortion as if its obvious (where as my experience has been, even around supposedly revolutionary people, that it's a pretty taboo topic and generally opposed). Apparently a lot of doctors here will say that they don't do abortions, but if you come back offering a decent amount of money, they will.

We finished off the meeting with some cheap Champaign to celebrate getting active again.

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"Come to the vigil for Palestine in the Plaza", my text message said at 9.30 last night. Ok! The radio collective people had put up a screen in the plaza and were displaying photos and commentary about the struggle in Palestine. It's a neat idea- people walking past can stop and watch, and then the organisers can talk to them. It's just that buses stop at about 9.30 here (depending, sometimes as late as 10.30), so there weren't so many people about. In front of the screen they had arranged candles in the shape of the Palestinian flag.

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