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Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean

Engendering Social Justice, Democratizing Citizenship

Edited by Elizabeth Maier and Nathalie Lebon

Publication Year: 2010

In Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean a group of interdisciplinary scholars analyze and document the diversity, vibrancy, and effectiveness of women's experiences and organizing in that area during the past four decades. Most of the expressions of collective agency are analyzed within the context of the neoliberal model of globalization that has seriously affected most Latin American and Caribbean women's lives in multiple ways. 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.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

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pp. xi-xiv

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...

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pp. xv-xvii

This book results ultimately from the kind of reflection impelled by an intense stage of cultural and social reorganization and renovation. It is the second volume in an effort to take stock of the significance of nearly forty years of women’s agency and activism for democracy and citizenship in Latin America and the Caribbean. Indeed, it closely follows an initial anthology in Spanish, cosponsored by the United Nations Development...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xix-xxii

Part I: Setting the Stage

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Introduction: Women Building Plural Democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean

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pp. 3-25

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...

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1. Accommodating the Private into the Public Domain: Experiences and Legacies of the Past Four Decades

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pp. 26-43

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...

Part II: Women, Work, and Families

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2. Women's Work and Neoliberal Globalization: Implications for Gender Equity

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pp. 47-59

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...

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3. Female-Headed Households and Poverty in Latin America: A Comparison of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic

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pp. 60-75

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...

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4. A “Top-Down”–“Bottom-Up” Model: Four Decades of Women’s Employment and Gender Ideology in Cuba

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pp. 76-91

Since 1959 the Cuban cultural identity nationwide has been enriched by the newneeds and values generated in women’s and men’s gender ideology. This essayargues that the feminization of the Cuban workforce, especially among profession-als, has contributed to a change in what it means to be a woman and a man in mycountry.1 The processes linked to the increasing participation of Cuban women in...

Part III: Women's Agency for Plural Democracy and Full Citizenship

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5. The Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo Speak

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pp. 95-110

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...

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6. Gender Politics in Nicaragua: Feminism, Antifeminism, and the Return of Daniel Ortega

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pp. 111-126

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...

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7. Haiti: Women in Conquest of Full and Total Citizenship in an Endless Transition

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pp. 127-139

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...

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8. From Urban Elite to Peasant Organizing: Agendas, Accomplishments, and Challenges of Thirty-Plus Years of Guatemalan Feminism, 1975–2007

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pp. 140-156

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...

Part IV: Broadening the Circle of Women's Activism

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9. Women's Movements in Argentina: Tensions and Articulations

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pp. 159-174

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...

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10. Advocating for Citizenship and Social Justice: Black Women Activists in Brazil

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pp. 175-186

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...

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11. Itineraries of Latin American Lesbian Insubordination

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pp. 187-202

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...

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12. Respect, Discrimination, and Violence: Indigenous Women in Ecuador, 1990–2007

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pp. 203-218

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...

Part V: Shaping Public Policy with A Gender Perspective

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13. Peace Begins at Home: Women’s Struggles Against Violence and State Actions in Costa Rica

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pp. 221-235

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...

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14. New Challenges in Feminist Practice: The Women’s Institutes in Mexico

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pp. 236-254

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...

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15. Women's Struggles for Rights in Venezuela: Opportunities and Challenges

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pp. 255-272

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...

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16. Trickling Up, Down, and Sideways: Gender Policy and Political Opportunity in Brazil

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pp. 273-288

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...

Part VI: The Politics of Scale

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17. From Insurgency to Feminist Struggle: The Search for Social Justice, Democracy, and Equality Between Women and Men

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pp. 291-306

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...

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18. The Latin American Network of Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir

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pp. 307-318

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...

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19. Constructing New Democratic Paradigms for Global Democracy: The Contribution of Feminisms

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pp. 319-334

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...

Part VII: Concluding Considerations

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20. Concluding Reflections: Renegotiating Gender in Latin America and the Caribbean

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pp. 337-351

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...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 353-357


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pp. 359-375

E-ISBN-13: 9780813549514
E-ISBN-10: 0813549515
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813547282
Print-ISBN-10: 0813547288

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 4 tables
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women -- Caribbean Area -- Social conditions.
  • Feminism -- Caribbean Area.
  • Feminism -- Latin America.
  • Women -- Political activity -- Caribbean Area.
  • Women -- Political activity -- Latin America.
  • Women -- Latin America -- Social conditions.
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