Humberto Márque / Inter Press Service – 2007-04-20 22:16:48
CARACAS (April 13, 2007) — Condemnation of the United States’ war in Iraq was rife at the 14th Congress of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) which concludes this Friday in Caracas. Over 1,000 delegates representing 165 organisations in 80 countries participated.
“The fight against imperialist wars is part of the struggles we engage in against all forms of oppression and violence, and for women to be considered first-class citizens in every nation,” said Marcia Campos, the Brazilian president of the WIDF, at the inauguration of the congress.
The WIDF was founded in 1945, influenced by socialist movements, with the aim of organising and mobilising women’s groups and coalitions to work for the causes of peace and equal rights for women.
“After the break-up of the socialist bloc, some people thought that it would take a long time for social movements to recover, but we re-emerged quickly and vigorously in the new hub of world revolution, which is Latin America,” communist leader and president of the Venezuelan state Institute for Women María León told IPS.
Since last Sunday, the congress working groups have addressed issues such as the negative impact of globalisation, state terrorism and imperialist wars, and building international solidarity against political repression and all forms of violence against women.
Other debates have focused on progress towards equal rights for women in terms of employment, health, education, social security and overcoming hunger; the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant women in the Americas; and human trafficking and treatment of women, children and teenagers.
National struggles were also discussed. For instance, the Puerto Rico Committee at the United Nations (COPRONU) proposed “breaking down the wall of silence surrounding the island’s struggle for independence,” one of its leaders, Wilma Reverón, told IPS.
“The political changes occurring in Latin America – in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador – are inspiring university students to resume the struggle for Puerto Rican independence,” Reverón said.
Fatime Larosi, who lives in a refugee camp in western Algeria, said that “the last African colony has been forgotten. It’s the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and it’s occupied by Morocco, which exploits its mineral and fishing resources,” she told IPS. As an example of national reconciliation after a civil war lasting 30 years, Angolan Minister of Family and Women’s Affairs Cándida da Silva presented the case of her country, where she said the struggle for political empowerment is still ongoing.
“We still have a long way to go to strengthen women’s role in political decision-making,” da Silva told IPS.
Although 13 percent of Angolan members of parliament are women, women hold only 2.5 percent of the decision-making positions in the executive branch.
The Angolan constitution “enshrines equal rights and equality of opportunity, but we still have a long way to go, especially in building up the education base, so that many more women get a higher education,” da Silva said.
In countries like Guatemala, “more women in public office” has also become a political rallying cry, Julia Luchcar, a member of the National Union of Guatemalan Women (UNAMG) and of the Broad Movement of the Left (MAIZ), told IPS.
Walda Barrios-Klee, the president of UNAMG, is standing as MAIZ’s candidate for the vice presidency of Guatemala in next September’s elections. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú is running for president.
The struggle against globalising capitalism and its effects on indigenous peoples was stressed by participants like Hilaria Supa Huamán, an indigenous Peruvian member of parliament. “We oppose violence, and most of all we oppose the violence that the United States wants to impose on us,” she told IPS.
“We want an end to war, because it kills people and nature, and brings about climate change,” Supa Huamán emphasised. “As small farmers and indigenous people, we are opposed to pollution of rivers and land, and to measures like those taken by (President) Alan García’s government, which bombs our coca leaf fields.”
The WIDF congress “is another ally helping indigenous people to defend our customs, languages, ceremonies, music, typical dress, and respect for nature,” Supa Huamán said, after which she joined Venezuelan indigenous lawmaker Nohelí Pocaterra to tell stories to 20 or so indigenous young people from Venezuela.
The WIDF event was held in facilities located in Caracas’ Central Park, a cluster of state-owned skyscrapers. Sellers of books on Marxism and T-shirts printed with leftwing icons like Ernesto Che Guevara, Salvador Allende, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez set up their stalls in the corridors.
The congress will conclude Friday with a march in solidarity with the Chávez administration, and the adoption of a final document which will record the main demands that have been presented, León said.