Sourcenotas.org.ar / The Dawn / November 26, 2015. In the cycle of interviews with Venezuelan popular movements as a warm-up for the elections on December 6, we talked to Francis Monterola and Yolanda Saldarriaga, members of the Revolutionary School of Peoples Feminism, Identities and Sexualities.
What is the Revolutionary School of Peoples Feminism Identities and Sexualities? How was it created?
– Francis Monterola (FM): The School is a place of articulation of women’s organizations, of individuals and groups. We met with the political objective of building a new look on feminism from the grassroots, from organized women, those who are building communities, the settlers, the comrades who have fought in different areas of feminism. And in this historical moment of the Bolivarian Revolution, we got together and decided to move towards a joint platform.
Yolanda Saldarriaga (YS): The history of the School were spaces of coordination between organizations such as Pobladores, the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), the National Association of Free and Alternative Community Media (ANMCLA) and groups of feminist women, who decided that political training was our excuse to get together and support each other, because the gender struggle in mixed organizations is very complex. From there on, we started making national meetings and creating a permanent coordination space, which now is present in six states, and more coordinations in ten states with different groups.
What are the developments in the feminist struggle conquered during the Bolivarian Revolution?
– Y. S. : The Venezuelan legal framework is actually quite advanced, if compared to the struggle of women. The Constitution is written in gender-neutral language, Article 88 recognizes domestic work as work that creates wealth, which is part of the economy, and recognizes the right of women to have the number of children she desires. From this framework, we have developed the Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, which recognizes and criminalizes more than 20 forms of violence including femicide, induction to suicide and patrimonial violence.
Plus, in the Organic Law of the Social Process of Labour, workers, both men and women, have an extended postnatal and breastfeeding leave. It also contemplates the possibility that women workers have decent conditions, and job security for men and women with children under two years. These are rights that dignify the working people and the sons and daughters of all the communities.
F. M. : Another important policy is the one being lead by communal defenders, who are sisters who have created the gender equity committees in the communities, and are committed to work on identifying all cases of violence.
Y. S. : There are also a number of demands of the people in general, that help women and cause an improvement in their living conditions, such as educational missions. Before, women could not access education, because the time and distance were against them, because they had a “triple workday”—this refers to the 3 obligations that woman have as a job: taking care of the house and children, going to work and also studying—. Now 60% of the enrollment of the missions are women. So with these new conditions of flexible schedule, closeness to home and decentralization of higher education, that ensures that universities are present in all municipalities of the country, women can study.
Moreover, respecting access to land and housing, compared with the global figure that shows that around the world, only 1% of women have access to land ownership , Venezuela is much better, because from the organizational processes women have had the possibility of being owners.
What are the remaining issues?
– F. M. : We propose, for this central historic moment, the anti-patriarchal commune, because in the commune there are in a lot of claims and debates to be held. For example, on the issue of abortion, because the abortion debate in Venezuela for us remains a challenge, a debt in the process of Chavez and the historical struggle of women in this country.
We also have to progress on the issue of violence against women. We need to generate many other conditions for women who are victims of violence, so they can leave these situations.
We must also advance on the construction of collective spaces for the care of children. We believe that all conditions must be generated so that women can actively participate in the construction of the community and avoid having our political work interrupted because of the caring for children.
Y. S. : Also in the construction of an anti-patriarchal commune, domestic work must be recognized, as the Constitution says, as a work that brings wealth to society, but it also has to be socialize. That the municipality should build spaces for all the housework, to be communal, rather than individual responsibility of women as it has been until now.
Also in the debate for the right to abortion, it is necessary to strengthen policies on sexual and reproductive health. Obstetric violence is a crime and it can be reported, but as there are still difficulties in the implementation of the law, the incidence is still quite high, as is the rate of teen pregnancy. Besides violence and the overload of domestic work for women there are issues that are not addressed in our culture; although there is a mission called Madres del Barrio, which is performing an effort for the recognition of domestic work, providing scholarships to mothers in the neighborhoods.
Culturally, there is much in which we need to move forward, there are many more legal developments and formal public policies that are linked to the cultural revolution, and we have to deepen them, but only within the framework of socialism and construction of communal state this will be possible.
What is the proposal of the School regarding the campaign for the parliamentary elections on December 6th?
– Y. S. : The School has participated in theHugo Chavez Popular Campaign , which is a space of social movements aimed at vindicating Chavism, beyond the particular candidates. We consider that Chavism, as a historical construction, has a lot to do with our missions, especially in this time of global onslaught of the right. We are claiming in favor of this struggle and the defense of the process. Therefore, we are participating in this campaign stressing in the neighborhoods and the communities the need to deepen the revolution.
We, women, are a sector that still has a lot to gain. We have advanced, but not even half the way of what we need to have a decent life and we know that it will only be achieved with revolution.
Then, the Assembly is the space where we can fight to build a new Penal Code, where none of the struggles of the people is criminalized, as it still is today, where the struggle for land, housing and abortion are consider offenses. This code states that a man involved in an abortion gets a reduced sentence if he does it ‘for the good morals of his family’. That is an obvious expression of patriarchal State and the National Assembly will be the space to fight for those rights.
– What is the analysis of the School regarding this electoral stage?
– F. M. : Facing December 6, what is at stake is the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution and, in a context of economic war, and the onslaught on our comadre Nicolás Maduro, it is a fairly difficult situation. I think it’s one of the most difficult elections that Chavism has faced in recent years. However, we remain confident that there is a Chavist people who this December 6 will bet on the continuity of the revolutionary process.
Y. S. : The effort of the right to undermine the process, to convince people that they are wrong, that the construction of socialism is not possible, that the possibility of creating a society of justice and equality has failed, has managed to capture a sector the population. However, there is still a majority of Chavists, and the strategies of the right will be combated with more popular power; and the economic war will be overcome with domestic production. That is why people know that the battle for the legislature is very important because therein lays the possibility of continuing to build and strengthen the communal Sate.