Venezuela has a long history of women’s struggles, and since 1999, efforts to elevate the status of women and provide guarantees for women’s rights have become an integral part of the country’s Bolivarian Revolution.
According to the 2013 Human Development Report and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Venezuela has the third best Gender Inequality Index (GII) in Latin America. This index measures the resulting loss in human development due to inequality between men and women, on a scale of 0 to 1. The closer to 1, the greater the inequality between genders. Venezuela has a GII value of 0.4.
According to the UNDP, Venezuela has achieved a good gender parity index in primary education: for every 100 boys, there are 109 girls enrolled. In secondary education, for every 100 boys, 97 girls are enrolled; and in university education, for every 100 men, there are 144 women studying.
Furthermore, Venezuela was praised for ameliorating gender inequality in the country during the 59th United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva, Switzerland in 2014. The UN recognized that the female unemployment rate has dropped significantly over the past years, going from 16% in 1999 to 7.5% in 2014.
Meanwhile, the number of female lawmakers in Venezuela has tripled in roughly a decade. In 1997, prior to the revolution, less than 6% of lawmakers were women, while in recent years, women have occupied between 16 to 19% of seats in the National Assembly. During the Bolivarian Revolution, women have been appointed or elected to lead four out of five branches of the government and women currently lead the Electoral Branch and the Judicial Branch. Furthermore, 60% of the candidates in the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) National Assembly primary elections are women, after President Nicolás Maduro challenged the party to have at least 50% of the party’s candidates be women.
Women’s involvement in local politics has increased significantly. Many women serve as state governors, comptrollers, legislators, and mayors. The election of women to municipal councils has also increased - from 6.7% in 1995 to 19.4% in 2014. In local communal councils, they often comprise 70% of members. Women currently hold 16% of state governorships.
This structural transformation is complemented by changes to other institutions in Venezuela. The governments of President Hugo Chávez and President Maduro have created various agencies, policies and organizations that demonstrate the Bolivarian Revolution’s commitment to women and to gender equality, some of which are described below.
MINISTRY OF PEOPLE’S POWER FOR WOMEN AND GENDER EQUALITY
Created on March 8, 2009, this Ministry is the governing body of public policies and programs aimed at increasing women’s participation in people’s power and guaranteeing the exercise of gender equality rights established in the Constitution and Venezuelan law. Its core values are:
•Recovery of women’s collective memory
BANMUJER WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT BANK
Established on March 8, 2001, by Presidential Decree, the goal of this public financial institution is to include women in the socio-productive system in order to achieve social equality. To date, it has benefited more than three million Venezuelans through its financial and non-financial services. So far it has granted a total of 36,430 loans nationwide, 90% of which have gone to women.
HOMES OF THE NATION - SOCIAL MISSION
Homes of the Nation launched in June 2014 and consolidated prior missions, including Mothers of the Neighborhood and Neighborhood Children. Over 400,000 families from poor neighborhoods have signed on to this social program that protects the rights of the nation’s poor and vulnerable populations, provides community organization and training, and spurs participation in the productive economy in order to promote new social relations and a culture based on fulfilling social needs and providing economic autonomy for families in poverty. Its programs also contribute to ending violence against women and children, and to transforming the patriarchal aspects of our society.
“MAMA ROSA” PLAN
One of the strategic goals of the “Mama Rosa” 2013-2019 National Plan for Equality and Gender Equity is to achieve equal participation between men and women in all spheres of public life, including elected offices.This plan also protects and ensures the human rights of vulnerable women, including those of diverse sexual and gender orientations, women with disabilities, prisoners and girls, among others. It also seeks to eliminate all forms of gender violence.
ACHIEVEMENTS IN LAW
LOTTT (Labor Law) – Grants 6 weeks of prenatal maternity leave and 20 weeks of postnatal maternity leave to women. Pregnant women are protected by a firing freeze that lasts from the beginning of the pregnancy until two years after giving birth. Leave and protection also applies to parents who adopt children under 3 years old.
Law on Promoting and Protecting Breastfeeding – Protects the rights of mothers and children to breastfeed and aims to reduce the use of formulas and bottles by promoting the benefits of breastfeeding. Formulas now carry stickers signaling the importance of breast milk.
Law on the Right of Women to Live Free from Violence – Breaks the paradigm of domestic violence as part of the private sphere and aims to prevent all forms of violence against women through protective measures and immediate action once complaints are filed. Between 2011 and 2012, over 25,000 protective measures were issued. Includes ground breaking sections on obstetric violence (dehumanizing treatment by doctors and nurses, over-reliance on medication and unnecessary c-sections), labor violence, institutional violence and economic violence.
UNAMUJER - NATIONAL UNION OF WOMEN
The National Union of Women aims to unite different grassroots and revolutionary groups, as well a female leaders around the country, in order to strengthen the Bolivarian Revolution and help construct a society based on full equality and gender equity. This network was discussed and created at the Third National Congress of Women held in March 2015 in Caracas. As of May 2015, 1,255,000 women have affiliated with UNAMUJER.
INAMUJER - NATIONAL WOMEN’S INSTITUTE
Originally a precursor to the Ministry For Women and Gender Equality, Inamujer runs, among other things, women’s shelters, a hotline for domestic violence, programs for cancer survivors and patients, programs against gender-based violence and violence in general, and training programs for collectives, social movements and communities to prevent violence against women at the grassroots.
HEALTH AND SAFETY PROGRAMS
0800-MUJERES – This hotline offers general information, guidance and help to women suffering or at risk of violence. Offering free help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, this service helped over 16,000 women between 2010 and 2011.
Women’s Shelters – These offer temporary housing to women and their children who are at risk of violence. They provide safety, counseling and care, meeting the physical, emotional, social, labor, recreation and pedagogical needs of resident women and children.
Reprinted from the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United States
Back to Article Listing