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Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean

Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean: Engendering Social Justice, Democratizing Citizenship

ELIZABETH MAIER
NATHALIE LEBON
FOREWORD BY SONIA E. ALVAREZ
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hj2ph
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  • Book Info
    Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean
    Book Description:

    Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbeanbrings together a group of interdisciplinary scholars who analyze and document the diversity, vibrancy, and effectiveness of women's experiences and organizing in Latin America and the Caribbean during the past four decades. Most of the expressions of collective agency are analyzed in this book within the context of the neoliberal model of globalization that has seriously affected most Latin American and Caribbean women's lives in multiple ways. Contributors explore the emergence of the area's feminist movement, dictatorships of the 1970s, the Central American uprisings, the urban, grassroots organizing for better living conditions, and finally, the turn toward public policy and formal political involvement and the alternative globalization movement. Geared toward bridging cultural realities, this volume represents women's transformations, challenges, and hopes, while considering the analytical tools needed to dissect the realities, understand the alternatives, and promote gender democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4951-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    SONIA E. ALVAREZ

    This exceptional collection is the fruit of the very processes it analyzes: the growth and vitality of Latin American and Caribbean feminist organizing and scholarship over the course of the past four decades and the concomitant configuration of vibrant, multifaceted feminist academic and activist fields spanning the Americas and beyond. While privileging the voices of feminists from South and Central America in translation, this book is the product of ongoing transnational, transdisciplinary conversations among feminists working to bridge North and South, politics and culture, the academy and the movement. Indeed,Women’s Activism in Latin America and the Caribbeangrows out...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Elizabeth Maier and Nathalie Lebon
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  6. Part I Setting the Stage

    • Introduction WOMEN BUILDING PLURAL DEMOCRACY IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
      (pp. 3-25)
      NATHALIE LEBON

      The past four decades have witnessed the rapid and profound transformation of women’s roles and gender ideologies in Latin America and the Caribbean, much of which has revolved around women taking their destinies into their own hands, individually and collectively. The resurgence of feminism and women’s activism in the region since the seventies has been hard to ignore: women have been active on a broad spectrum of political and cultural fronts, working for social justice and for a more inclusive citizenship with attention to gender power differentials.

      Over these four decades, the political and economic context has changed radically, transforming,...

    • 1 Accommodating the Private into the Public Domain: EXPERIENCES AND LEGACIES OF THE PAST FOUR DECADES
      (pp. 26-44)
      ELIZABETH MAIER

      One of the most distinctive characteristics of Latin America over the past four decades has been the increasing visibility of women as collective actors in the public domain of politics, clearly contributing to the gradual forging of a regional culture of rights. Whether propelled onto the political arena from the tensions of gender inequality that historically have shaped the lives of over half of the population, or having emerged from the dense national narratives of dictatorial repression in the Southern Cone and the insurgent uprisings that polarized Central America during the seventies and eighties, or having coalesced around the material...

  7. Part II Women, Work, and Families:: The Structural Context of Globalization

    • 2 Women’s Work and Neoliberal Globalization: IMPLICATIONS FOR GENDER EQUITY
      (pp. 47-59)
      ALICE COLÓN and SARA POGGIO

      Even after thirty years of active women’s movements and advances in gender equity, we are still far from full citizenship for women in Latin America. We need not detail the impressive increase in women’s education, their declining fertility, or their growing social, economic, and political participation, all of which have changed their lives over the past decades. However, these years also saw changes in the world capitalist order, impelling policies of neoliberal globalization that transformed Latin American social, economic, and political structures and intensified poverty and inequality throughout the region. It is increasingly evident that without social and economic equity...

    • 3 Female-Headed Households and Poverty in Latin America: A COMPARISON OF CUBA, PUERTO RICO, AND THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
      (pp. 60-75)
      HELEN SAFA

      Female household headship has long been associated with poverty. Women’s lower salaries, coupled with other forms of gender discrimination in the labor market, and the lack of a stable male breadwinner imply that households headed by females have lower incomes. But Sylvia Chant (1997) and others have questioned this automatic assumption, claiming that female heads are not always “the poorest of the poor.” In Latin America during the 1990s the percentage of urban female headship increased overall and, while indigent households represented the largest proportion of female headships, the increase was not confined to this sector (ECLAC 2004, 23).

      In...

    • 4 A “Top-Down”–“Bottom-Up” Model: FOUR DECADES OF WOMEN’S EMPLOYMENT AND GENDER IDEOLOGY IN CUBA
      (pp. 76-92)
      MARTA NÚÑEZ SARMIENTO

      Since 1959 the Cuban cultural identity nationwide has been enriched by the new needs and values generated in women’s and men’s gender ideology. This essay argues that the feminization of the Cuban workforce, especially among professionals, has contributed to a change in what it means to be a woman and a man in my country.¹ The processes linked to the increasing participation of Cuban women in the labor force are similar in many respects to those taking place in other countries of the region, including the United States and Canada. Nevertheless, there are notable differences that singularize the Cuban phenomenon,...

  8. Part III Women’s Agency for Plural Democracy and Full Citizenship

    • 5 The Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo Speak
      (pp. 95-110)
      GRACIELA DI MARCO

      The Mothers’ committees for the disappeared were one of the first expressions of female activism in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s. They irrupted onto the political stage of their respective countries as a collective response to a regional policy of counterinsurgency that grotesquely violated the most basic human rights to life, to not be tortured, and to have a fair trial. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (May Square) of Argentina was the first and best-known group of mothers to organize in search of their disappeared children. As many other authoritarian regimes of this era, the Argentinean military...

    • 6 Gender Politics in Nicaragua: FEMINISM, ANTIFEMINISM, AND THE RETURN OF DANIEL ORTEGA
      (pp. 111-126)
      KAREN KAMPWIRTH

      Nicaragua has the most significant feminist movement in Central America today, thanks in part to the Sandinista Revolution (1979–1990). But, according to María Lourdes Bolaños, Hazel Fonseca, and many other activists in the women’s movement, many leaders of the revolution were also responsible for impeding the emergence of feminism. So it is somewhat ironic that the opponents of today’s feminist activists, people I call antifeminists, often frame their opposition to feminism in terms of the Sandinista Revolution.¹ Antifeminist activists such as Max Padilla see the revolution and feminism as part of the same process, a process they oppose. But...

    • 7 Haiti: WOMEN IN CONQUEST OF FULL AND TOTAL CITIZENSHIP IN AN ENDLESS TRANSITION
      (pp. 127-139)
      MYRIAM MERLET

      For some years now, almost all analytic texts on Haiti take as a point of departure the difficult junction of transition that the country has been experiencing. In fact, since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in February 1986, Haiti has been seeking and continues to seek paths leading to democracy. In late May 2005, nineteen years later, Haiti is still bogged down and in an endless crisis. So any attempt to present and to analyze is perforce marked by the parameters of this transition, punctuated by a series of crises. The most recent, precipitated among other things by the...

    • 8 From Urban Elite to Peasant Organizing: AGENDAS, ACCOMPLISHMENTS, AND CHALLENGES OF THIRTY-PLUS YEARS OF GUATEMALAN FEMINISM, 1975–2007
      (pp. 140-156)
      ANA LORENA CARRILLO and NORMA STOLTZ CHINCHILLA

      The First United Nations World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City in 1975, served as a catalyst for and accelerated the second wave of feminism in a number of Latin American countries. In Guatemala, however, it took more than a decade before women’s groups—particularly those with an explicitly feminist perspective—began to play an important and visible role in civic and political life.

      The fact that feminism and a gender perspective are relatively new in Guatemala does not mean that women only recently became actors in Guatemalan history. Throughout the decade following the United Nations conference, for example,...

  9. Part IV Broadening the Circle of Women’s Activism:: New Meanings from Intersecting Oppressions

    • 9 Women’s Movements in Argentina: TENSIONS AND ARTICULATIONS
      (pp. 159-174)
      GRACIELA DI MARCO

      This chapter focuses on the relations between Argentinean women’s movements and the state between the nineties and the early twenty-first century. In this period, processes of structural adjustment and globalization dramatically changed the social structure of Argentina. A significant corpus of law was passed to support women’s rights; however, a gap remains between the laws on the books and an effective defense and protection of such rights.

      My approach to trace the developments that took place from the mid-nineties to the present takes the vast literature about women’s movements in Latin America into account, starting from considerations of both public...

    • 10 Advocating for Citizenship and Social Justice: BLACK WOMEN ACTIVISTS IN BRAZIL
      (pp. 175-186)
      KIA LILLY CALDWELL

      This essay examines the emergence of the black women’s movement in Brazil since the early 1980s and focuses on the ways in which activists in the movement have sought to redefine and expand norms of democracy and citizenship in the country. Black women’s political activism during Brazil’s most recent transition to democracy has played a key role in calling for new conceptualizations of equality and justice that seek to redress long-standing processes of social, economic, and political exclusion. By calling attention to the intersectional nature of racial, gender, and class dynamics, black women activists have challenged both progressive social movements...

    • 11 Itineraries of Latin American Lesbian Insubordination
      (pp. 187-202)
      NORMA MOGROVEJO

      The lesbian movement came to Latin America in two ways: first, in the case of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Puerto Rico, through the gay struggle influenced by the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in the United States. In Chile, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica the lesbian struggle emerged in the second half of the 1970s, thanks to the influence of the Latin American feminist movement and its conferences. Because of similarities in their circumstances, Latin American lesbians have maintained strategic alliances—sometimes close and other times contentious—with the gay, transgendered, and bisexual movement, which I call “sexual dissidence.”¹ Along...

    • 12 Respect, Discrimination, and Violence: INDIGENOUS WOMEN IN ECUADOR, 1990–2007
      (pp. 203-218)
      MERCEDES PRIETO, ANDREA PEQUEÑO, CLORINDA COMINAO, ALEJANDRA FLORES and GINA MALDONADO

      In the 1970s illiterate indigenous women in Ecuador received the right to vote, a right that years later would open the way for their active participation in indigenous movements. Indeed, by the 1990s indigenous movements, with significant participation by women, besieged centers of state power as the country experienced a growing economic and political crisis.¹ This public presence initially took the shape of an uprising that paralyzed much of the country and led to lengthy negotiations, with “native peoples” and nations demanding respect for their rights. As a result, the rights of indigenous peoples were recognized, both in the Constitution...

  10. Part V Shaping Public Policy with a Gender Perspective

    • 13 Peace Begins at Home: WOMEN’S STRUGGLES AGAINST VIOLENCE AND STATE ACTIONS IN COSTA RICA
      (pp. 221-235)
      MONTSERRAT SAGOT

      Several studies have shown that violence against women is a major social problem—stemming from a social organization based on gender inequality—that systematically affects millions of women all over the world.¹ An endemic form of such violence is the abuse of women by their partners. According to research carried out in Latin America, 25 percent to more than 50 percent of women report having suffered this type of abuse.² In Costa Rica results of the National Survey on Violence against Women show that 58 percent of women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence after...

    • 14 New Challenges in Feminist Practice: THE WOMEN’S INSTITUTES IN MEXICO
      (pp. 236-254)
      MARÍA LUISA TARRÉS

      After thirty years of feminist mobilization and as a government with a conservative bent is adopting a gender discourse, it is well worthwhile to evaluate the results of women’s collective action aimed at influencing the sexual dimensions of power and politics. Although by their nature government agendas tend to neutralize the subversive charge present in the proposals of any social movement, the history of the feminist movement in Mexico has been shaped by a changing context that has actually integrated a gender perspective into the political culture of a nascent democracy (Fraser 1991; Tarrow 1994). Between 1970 and 2000, the...

    • 15 Women’s Struggles for Rights in Venezuela: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
      (pp. 255-272)
      CATHY A. RAKOWSKI and GIOCONDA ESPINA

      Since 1958, when the current period of democratic rule began, and until 1992, when there were two attempted coups, Venezuela was considered a model of democratic consolidation. Leaders used oil revenues and international loans to advance a program of national economic development and a social democracy based on political pacts. In particular, leaders invested in public services (such as education and health) and in public works. This system led to the rapid expansion of an urban middle class; great demand for educated women workers (especially in the public sector starting in the sixties); and improvements in national productivity, per capita...

    • 16 Trickling Up, Down, and Sideways: GENDER POLICY AND POLITICAL OPPORTUNITY IN BRAZIL
      (pp. 273-288)
      FIONA MACAULAY

      This chapter examines how, since the early 1980s, the Brazilian women’s movement has navigated political and institutional terrains in pursuit of new state mechanisms for promoting gender equity and equality policies.¹ It begins by tracing the ups and down of the Conselho Nacional dos Direitos da Mulher (CNDM; National Council for Women’s Rights), now the Secretaria Especial de Políticas para as Mulheres (SPM; Special Secretariat for Policies on Women). The fortunes of the CNDM—one of the earliest national governmental units for women in the region—illustrate how features of the political and institutional environment can constitute both obstacle and...

  11. Part VI The Politics of Scale:: Local, Regional, and Global Feminist Agency

    • 17 From Insurgency to Feminist Struggle: THE SEARCH FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, DEMOCRACY, AND EQUALITY BETWEEN WOMEN AND MEN
      (pp. 291-306)
      MORENA HERRERA

      Looking back to the past means acknowledging one’s own wounds: both the visible ones and the hidden ones on the inside, those that cure more slowly and sometimes are never completely healed. To do so is to confront two types of contradictions: those that life serves us and those that we ourselves embrace. It also involves challenging the lack of recognition of women’s participation in social processes, in spite of our undeniable presence, and as such realizing our dreams for a more just life. These next few pages are a reflection about women’s sociopolitical participation in El Salvador, from the...

    • 18 The Latin American Network of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir
      (pp. 307-318)
      MARYSA NAVARRO and MARÍA CONSUELO MEJÍA

      Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir in Latin America (CDD en América Latina; Catholics for the Right to Decide) is a network composed of organizations and persons who define themselves as Catholics committed to social justice and to changing existing cultural and religious patterns that oppress women. It is part of the Latin American and Caribbean feminist movement and thus promotes women’s rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights, and seeks to attain equity in gender relations and to advance women’s citizenship in society and the churches.

      Founded in 1994, in Uruguay’s Fortín de Santa Rosa, CDD en América Latina is...

    • 19 Constructing New Democratic Paradigms for Global Democracy: THE CONTRIBUTION OF FEMINISMS
      (pp. 319-334)
      VIRGINIA VARGAS

      Social movements—and feminisms as an expression and part of them—are not unfamiliar with eras of transformation or their contradictions, limitations, and sensitivities. In this most recent period, social movements’ modes of operating have changed in response to the challenges raised by the cultural, political, social, and economic climate of the new millennium. The conditions and impetus for the rise of the second wave of Latin American feminisms were dramatically different from those prevalent today. Feminist politics emerged in Latin America early on in the struggle against dictatorships, authoritarian governments, and seemingly democratic governments, against which confrontation and deep...

  12. Part VII Concluding Considerations

    • 20 Concluding Reflections: RENEGOTIATING GENDER IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
      (pp. 337-352)
      ELIZABETH MAIER

      Four decades is just a historical wink of the eye, and yet in Latin America and the Caribbean women’s lives have changed significantly. Presently, women are almost 40 percent of the workforce. They make up approximately 28 percent of regional emigration. The mother/child ratio has been reduced by half over the past thirty years, now at 2.6 children per woman. Women marry later, have their first child later, and 80 percent use some method of family planning. Girls are on relatively equal educational footing with boys in primary and secondary levels, and in some countries even surpass male participation in...

  13. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 353-358)
  14. Index
    (pp. 359-375)