Venezuela Turns Women’s Affairs Ministry Into Full-Fledged Ministry

In honor of International Women’s Day Sunday, President Hugo Chávez announced that the Women’s Affairs Ministry, which was created last year as an extension of the National Institute of Women (INAMUJER), will now have its own budget and central office.

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com
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La Cantera performed with President Chavez Sunday in honor of women. (ABN)
La Cantera performed with President Chavez Sunday in honor of women. (ABN)

Mérida, March 9th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- In honor of International Women’s Day Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced that the Women’s Affairs Ministry, which was created last year as an extension of the National Institute of Women (INAMUJER), will now have its own budget and central office, and the name of the ministry will be changed to include “gender equality.”

“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs will become a ministry with a budget,” said Chávez during his weekly talk show Aló Presidente. “What’s more, it occurs to me that it should be called the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, since these are two distinct and complementary things.”

Last year on March 8th, Chávez designated the president of INAMUJER, María León, to head up a new ministry dedicated to defending and extending women’s rights nation-wide. But until now, the ministry did not have a budget independent of INAMUJER.

Chávez dedicated Sunday’s broadcast of Aló Presidente as well as “Chávez’s lines,” the opinion column the president publishes in more than two dozen newspapers across the country every week, to women’s issues.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Without the true liberation of women, the liberation of the people would be impossible, and I am convinced that an authentic socialist should also be an authentic feminist,” Chávez wrote in his column.

During the show, a collective of female cultural workers performed several folk songs dedicated to women. Then, with their acoustic guitars strumming in the background, Chávez recited a poem about a battle against the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez in the early twentieth century, drawing a parallel between motherhood and the struggle for national liberation.

Women’s Affairs Minister María León, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nicia Maldonado, Telecommunications Minister Socorro Hernández, Communes Minister Erika Farías, PSUV leader Ana Elisa Osorio, National Assembly Deputies Iroshima Bravo and Nohelí Pocaterra, and other female political leaders accompanied President Chávez on his talk show Sunday.

In honor of International Women’s Day, this group of women ceremoniously placed a bouquet of flowers at Venezuela’s national pantheon where independence hero Simón Bolívar’s remains are buried.

Minister León highlighted the achievements in favor of women’s rights since Chávez took office in 1999. These include an extensive Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, legal recognition of the economic value of household work, the creation of a women’s bank and other programs to finance women-led businesses, and an electoral law that increased the representation of women to nearly 40% in state and legislative assemblies.

León also pointed out several important tasks in the coming years in order to further strengthen women’s rights in Venezuela. These include the pending passage of the Law on Gender Equality and the Law on Pensions for Homemakers in the National Assembly, and the expansion of popular education programs to provide sex education to youth and deepen gender consciousness in the general populace.

“As long as the subordination of women exists in our collective conscience, men will continue thinking they can violate the rights of women. The collective conscience must be shaped to bring about equality between men and women,” León declared.

One of the Women’s Affairs Ministry’s top agenda items this year will be the promotion of women’s committees in the tens of thousands of local community councils across the nation, to allow communities themselves to shape solutions to problems such as domestic violence, and to facilitate the denunciation of domestic abuse to local authorities, according to León.

Also Sunday, León said the central office of the Women’s Affairs Ministry was inaugurated in Caracas, and a sister office called the Institute of Formation in Socialism and Gender Equality was inaugurated in Aragua state.   

In an interview on the state television station VTV, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nicia Maldonado spoke of the unique ways that indigenous women in Venezuela have benefitted from the government’s support for indigenous communities, including a recent housing project in the Yukpa communities of the Sierra de Perijá.

“Long live indigenous women! We salute all women worldwide and in our country because here we continue in the vanguard, struggling so that gender equality exists, so that we can construct a better world of equality, where sexism is broken along with capitalism,” said Maldonado.

Meanwhile, in Caracas and in several other major cities, a diverse array of rural and urban social movement organizations marched through the streets. In a dispatch titled “Men and women weaving socialist conscience for our mother Earth,” the marchers drew the connection between women’s issues and the deepening of Venezuela’s revolutionary process on all fronts.

The marchers also said they were demonstrating in honor of women who had died struggling for their rights in the past, including the 140 Italian and Jewish immigrant laborers in a textile factory in New York who burned to death in the infamous “Triangle Fire” in March 1911.  

International Women’s Day began in the early 1900s, and was observed nationally in Venezuela for the first time on March 8th 1944.