Women in the Venezuelan revolution: `We’re not invisible but invincible'

Pielrroc Montenegro.

By ABN (Venezuelan news agency), translated by Tamara Pearson

Caracas, March 8, 2010 (ABN/Venezuelanalysis.com) –  “I’m a woman with a new life since the Bolivarian Revolution knocked on my door”, said Pielrroc Montenegro, Maracaiban[i] by birth and Andean by tradition, with eyes full of nostalgia and gratitude. She described herself as a “dignified mother of the neighbourhood” since the mission of that name[ii] enabled her to realise one of her dreams: enrol in university.

Years ago, Pielrroc didn’t think much of it when, barely aware of its existence, she signed up with Mission Ribas [high school-level education program]. When she was young she had been forced to leave high school just one year before finishing it.

“My mum got sick and because of economic difficulties I had to work”, she recalled, and said that once she graduated from high school through the government program she seriously considered her options of continuing her studies through Mission Sucre [government university education program]. Then I struggled for my second dream: to study special education, an area I’ve always wanted to work in.”

She had to delay those studies when she finished the second semester of the course and started to notice that her studies took up a lot of her time and reduced the number of hours that she could dedicate to her work as a domestic servant, her only source of income.

Her daughter, then aged 12, needed her more as a working mother than as a studying mother, which ended her studies. “I felt committed to my daughter and obligated to meet her needs,” Pilerroc said.

Around that time, [mission] Mothers of the Neighbourhood arrived in the heavy populated suburb of Aragua, La Esperanza, where Pielrroc was living, and made her an unrefusable offer: “They told me not to quit my studies, that I had the profile to be a beneficiary of the mission.”

That’s how she did it, without doubt with the faith she had in the Bolivarian government and its public policies. “I paid attention to them, I believed them, and they came through and within days they called me to inform me that I’d start to receive 80% of the minimum wage, monthly, I was really happy.”

She benefited from the economic incentive for eight months, a period that allowed her to continue her studies and prepare herself for dignified employment in the Ministry of Woman and Gender Equality. She graduated from the Mission Sucre last June and still acts as a social promoter for the ministry, where she provides integral assistance to women who are receiving a range of different types of attention.

Among other things, she gives talks on self-esteem and personal improvement as well as social-political workshops, but she insists that her main task is to open the eyes of the women who, in one way or another, supported the exclusion to which they were victims.

Dreams realised

“Human beings are filled with dreams”, said Pielrroc, who not only yearned to complete her high school studies and have a profession, but also to have dignified housing for herself and her child. Thanks to a government program, she left the poor neighbourhood where she was living to move to a safer area, where today she has her own home.

“I stopped living in extreme poverty and constant risk and I’m still not used to seeing a proper roof instead of zinc”, she said.

Another one of her big aspirations was that her child realised her hope of becoming a doctor, an idea that was underestimated by many people around her. “One woman would always tell me that that a career was for well-off people and that our condition wouldn’t allow it, but I always told her I had faith, that I would work hard so that my child could achieve her aim”, she said.

Today, the young daughter, aged 17, studies integral community medicine in the Bolivarian campus El Macaro, in the state of Aragua, and in her free time she plays the guitar with her mother, something they managed to get with effort and sacrifice, in order to realise another one of her dreams.

“Since she was a child she wanted to be a pianist, but that was something else for the rich, as my mum would tell me. Today at least I have the guitar, which liberated me and with which I turn my poems to music.”

Second independence

On [March 8, International Women's Day], women from all over the world celebrate, recalling the recognition achieved through history. In Venezuela many of them do it, taking over public spaces, as part of a struggle that they maintain at the vanguard of all the processes.

Pielrroc is an example of this reality, as she rose up economically, professionally and emotionally, and is a social and feminist activist.

“We [women] are the majority in the missions, in the communal councils, in the committees”, she said, and attributed this to the implementation of policies that prioritise human beings and encourage the people, without disadvantaging women, to empower themselves ... and exercise participative and protagonistic democracy.

For the bicentenary year[iii], Pielrroc talks of a new process of liberation, similarly led by women. “It’s a good time for a second independence, a more colourful one, one that provides the space for women’s participation in equal conditions to men. We have to leave our mark and show that now we’re not invisible but invincible”, she said.

She appealed to all those who underestimate the humanist principles of the Bolivarian Revolution, and with guitar in hand, Pielrroc played the music that accompanies one of her poems turned songs: “The people are waking up, walking to the revolution, all that remains is to keep on struggling.”


[i] From the western state of Maracaibo in Venezuela.

[ii] Mission Mothers of the Neighbourhood (barrio) is a mission which aims to support those women living in conditions of extreme poverty, involving them in productive projects, recognising their domestic labour as work and providing financial support as well as health care and education through related missions.

[iii] 200 years since Venezuelan independence.

By Tamara Pearson

Merida, March 9, 2010 – Venezuelanalysis.com – Yesterday Venezuela celebrated International Women’s Day with a ceremony involving 200,000 women and some of Venezuela’s highest political female leaders. The women also formed a Bicentenary Front of Women. Meanwhile, a National Assembly committee is discussing women’s right to abortion.

In Caracas, President Hugo Chavez, attorney general Luisa Ortega, president of the National Electoral Council Tibisay Lucena, minister for women Maria Leon, Human Rights Ombudsperson Gabriela Ramirez, and Supreme Court president Luisa Ortega participated in a large ceremony and rally to mark IWD.

“In 11 years of revolution women have been able to advance much more than in 100 years of normal life”, said Leon. But she said that to continue advancing, more equality in the home, among other things, was needed, and “that men learn to wash and cook ... and women also carry out traditional male duties like mechanics [and] political responsibility.”

Also on the agenda for change is abortion, something currently illegal, very difficult obtain and generally frowned upon in Venezuela.  The president of the National Assembly’s commission for family, women and youth, Marelys Perez, said in a press release that as part of the project for a new penal code, the commission was discussing both guaranteeing the right to abortion, and that prostitution not to be the basis of discrimination.

“Abortion is a very sensitive topic, but we should tackle the issue with integrity and profound respect. We’re working very hard so that our proposal is included in the new penal code”, she said.

“During the Fourth Republic [a period of governance before Chavez] women’s day was marginalised, it was relegated to celebrations at the service of the bourgeois state”, Chavez said. He then paid homage to some of Venezuela’s heroines and female icons, such as Josefa Camejo (independence fighter ), Luisa Caceres de Arismendi (imprisoned during the war for independence ), Teresa Carreño (pianist, singer and composer) and Teresa de la Parra (feminist author).

“Only through revolution can women really be free”, said Chavez at the ceremony.

Venezuela's government media estimated that 200,000 women from around the country also attended the ceremony. The women took an oath to form a Bicentennial Front of Women, which will to fight for the Boliviarian revolution and for women.

Venezuela celebrates 200 years of independence on April 19 this year. Students and youth from various missions, organisations, movements and revolutionary parties made a similar oath to form a Bicentennial Front of Youth in February. This front was aimed at the September National Assembly elections as well as a campaign around implementing the new education law.

Chavez encouraged the women to “keep on fighting, keep on taking on the role of vanguard, to save the world and the country”.

Around the country, other cities and towns and schools also celebrated IWD with meetings, ceremonies and cultural events. In the city of Coro there was a march and 233 women were recognised for social work in their communities.