Mar 08 2013
The funeral of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela took place on International Women’s Day – a fitting day of departure for “the president of the poor” who was loved by millions, especially by women, the poorest.
When Chávez was elected in 1998, the grassroots movement took a leap in power, and women in particular were empowered. Women were the first into the streets against the 2002 US-backed coup; their mobilisation saved the revolution. When asked why, woman after woman said: “Chávez is us, he is our son.” He was an extension of who they were as strugglers for survival.
Chávez soon learnt that the revolution he led depended on women, and said so: “Only women have the passion and the love to make the revolution.” He acknowledged that the “missions” – the new social services which were at the heart of his popularity and which the state funded but did not run – were mainly created and run by grassroots neighbourhood women.
In 2006, when announcing the partial implementation of Article 88 of the new constitution recognising caring work as productive – a breakthrough worldwide – Chávez said: “[Women] work so hard raising their children, ironing, washing, preparing food … giving [their children] an orientation … This was never recognised as work yet it is such hard work! … Now the revolution puts you first, you too are workers, you housewives, workers in the home.”
Chávez was not the first movement leader who went on to head the government, to have understood women’s centrality to creating the new society they were striving to build.