a bit of information about venezuela, a tour, etc

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Wed Jan 14 2004 - 10:38:43 EST

Rakesh (who may speak for others on the list) has been quite critical of 
developments in Venezuela and wondering why Marxists and revolutionaries 
might view the Bolivarian process there as something as worthy of 
support/defence (and as more than merely a rentier state). I saw this item 
today which may be of interest; listmembers in the U.S. may want to try to 
catch these events./ michael

Women's Development Bank president Nora Castaneda: Creating a caring 
economy in Venezuela

Ahead of a tour of the United States later this month, Venezuelan Women's 
Development Bank president Nora Castaneda explains that “micro-credits are 
an excuse to empower women ... we believe that the economy must be at the 
service of human beings, not human beings at the service of the economy ... 
we want to create an economy based on cooperation and mutual support, a 
caring economy. We are not building a bank ... we are building a different 
way of life.”

Castaneda's first speaking tour is co-ordinated by the Bolivarian Circle of 
the Global Women's Strike (GWS) with the support of the Venezuelan Embassy 
in Washington D.C. and sponsored by Pacifica Radio’s KPFK, KPFA, WBAI and 
actors Danny Glover and Ed Asner ... proceeds from the tour will benefit 
grassroots women involved in self-help in Venezuela.

In a press release: Someone remarked upon seeing Ms Castaneda addressing a 
large audience in the video, 'Venezuela – A 21st Century Revolution' that 
“you don’t have to know Spanish to know that that woman is a great speaker 
... she is also a remarkable woman in a remarkable time ... one of great 
economic and social change ushered in by the people’s defeat of the 2002 
coup d'etat carried out with the support of the US administration."

President Hugo Chavez Frias, elected in a 1999 landslide vote to tackle 
poverty and corruption, agreed to the creation of a Women’s Development 
Bank (Banmujer) as a way to fund reforms to benefit the poorest families 
and communities and he appointed economist Nora Castaneda to head it.

Castaneda is of African and indigenous descent ... like 80% of the 
Venezuelan population (including President Chavez Frias) ... she is from a 
low-income single parent family and having helped raise her brothers and 
sisters, she describes herself as a “little mother” ... from age seven ... 
and a “revolutionary feminist.  She has prioritized women’s issues all her 
life ... dealing not only with domestic violence, but with the economy and 
the distribution of income from grassroots women’s point of view. She has 
taken it as her task, to build not only a bank, but a new way of life for 
women. She says “with 80% of the population poor, we cannot give away 
enough money ... but we can empower women.”

“We made ourselves part of the Constituent Assembly. Each day, for as long 
as the Assembly sat, two movements were on permanent attendance there: the 
indigenous and the women’s movement.  We had been discussing it for years, 
and now our time had come. There, in the Constituent Assembly, we won our 
womens' rights in the 1999 Constitution ... we won Article 88, which 
recognizes that housewives create added value and must be compensated with 
social security.”

Castaneda was central to the 1999 Constitutional process that won one of 
the most advanced Constitutions in the world ... for women and indigenous 
people, as well as for all working people, and all those who face 
discrimination on grounds of sex, race, age, disability.  After working for 
years to develop an agenda for women that included the input (and addressed 
the dire needs) of grassroots women, she and others picketed the 
Constituent Assembly daily “not to beg but to submit our proposals!”

They won more than they expected...

In addition to Article 88, women are visible throughout the Constitution, 
which has incorporated the female gender in all the text. Other articles, 
laws and policies favor women heads of households ... 70% of households in 
Venezuela ... who are given priority in the distribution of unused land and 
housing (one million hectares and five million property titles have been 
distributed so far); guarantee equality in the workplace between women and 
men; create breast milk banks and state schools in which one million of the 
poorest children are receiving three free meals a day in order to improve 
children’s health; guarantee bilingual education, recognizing the language 
and culture of Indigenous communities passed on from generation to 
generation by women. Banmujer has granted over 40,000 micro-credits to 
women all over Venezuela and is building a network of users.

Global Women's Strike (GWS) says it has been invited to Venezuela three 
times by the Women’s Institute, and has met Castaneda three times ... "each 
time, we have been impressed with her dedication, her leadership, her 
revolutionary economic perspective, her anti-sexism and her anti-racism, 
that are rooted in her commitment to grassroots women.  We all have much to 
learn from such a distinguished representative of the women’s movement and 
Venezuela’s Bolivarian process, and we want to make that information 
available to as wide an audience as possible."

We plan to have several events, including a reception, meetings and press 
interviews, in each of the following cities: Boston, New York, 
Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco 
around the third week in January. The title of the tour  is “Nora 
Castaneda: Creating a caring economy in Venezuela.”

Selma James, international coordinator of the Global Women’s Strike and 
Nina Lopez of the GWS Bolivarian Circle in London will accompany Castaneda 
to provide introductory remarks and translation on both east and west 
coasts of America. They will also show clips from 'Venezuela -- A 21st 
Century Revolution.' Phoebe Jones (GWS Bolivarian Circle/US) will 
coordinate and chair east coast events while Margaret Prescod (GWS Los 
Angeles, and KPFK presenter) will chair west coast.

    * Phoebe Jones 
    * telephone 215-848-1120
    * Margaret Prescod 

    * telephone 323-292-7405
    * Nina Lopez (Spanish-language inquiries) 

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office Fax:   (604) 291-5944
Home:   Phone (604) 689-9510

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