LED by the National Women’s Institute (INAMU), Costa Ricans on Monday celebrated International Women’s Day through a variety of gatherings and cultural events, all designed to foment the idea of the modern woman, free from constraint by repressive stereotypes and discrimination.
Organizers said it was a day to reflect on issues such as equal employment opportunity, sexuality, freedom of expression and freedom from gender violence and discrimination.
The celebration came as theCosta Rican Constitutional Court
reviews for the fourth time a controversial bill penalizing violence against women. The bill had been debated fervently since its introduction in 1999, but legislators made a concerted effort in recent weeks to speed its passage after a rash of domestic violence slayings this year (TT, March 5).
WOMEN’S Day was first celebrated before Word War I, when Russian women observed it as a part of the peace effort. In 1917, with 2 million Russian soldiers dead, women there again celebrated the day to strike for “bread and peace,” according to a United Nations statement about the subject.
Since then, it has grown in popularity internationally, and now March 8 is used as a time “to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women’s rights,” the statement said.
Esmeralda Britton, Minister for the Condition of Women, told the press early in the day that increased involvement in technologies in the new information age is essential in achieving gender equality.
Britton pointed to the Worldwide Platform of Action signed at the fourth International Women’s Conference in Beijing, China, in 1995. The platform contains as one of its objectives, she said, the goal of increasing access and participation in new medias and new communication technologies.
“IN the new information age, rapid access to information is indispensable,” Britton said Monday morning. “The access to this technology is key in order to act successfully and promote equal participation of women.”
“I hope this date serves to recognize and internalize the advances woman have achieved throughout history, but more than anything, that it is evidence of the importance of continuing opening doors so that as women we can recognize ourselves as humans subject to rights,” she continued.
Britton’s speech was followed by the presentation of the Angela Acuña Braun prize, awarded to journalists working in print, radio and television who promote “equality and equity” among journalists who show an image of women free from stereotypes.
FEW would argue that Angela Acuña Braun is not a fitting name to bestow upon such a prize. Acuña Braun became the nation’s first woman lawyer in 1925. She organized the formation of the Costa Rican Feminist League and led a movement in 1941 that eventually allowed women to serve as mayors and judges.
She also led a movement that in 1949 granted Costa Rican women the right to vote, became the first female ambassador for the country before the Organization of American States, and in 1957 was awarded Woman of the Americas award. She passed away in 1983, at the age of 95.
The prize was created a year after her death, according to an INAMU statement.
MAYELA Rodríguez, of the women’s publication Huella, won the print category, while Carmen Robles and César González took the radio category, and Ana Lucía Faerrón and Ligia Córdoba won the television category.
The ceremony was just the beginning of a series of activities to celebrate the day, including a concert by renowned women’s artist and activist Guadalupe Urbina in Central Park and a series of films throughout the week at the University of Costa Rica.
Aside from the celebration, however, this year’s Women’s Day saw two brutal reminders of the work yet to be done to stop violence against women.
On Monday, 72-year-old Zeneida Vega was found beaten to death in her Heredia home, while 18-year-old María Flores was found dead, shot at least twice, in a gutter in Alajuela. Police are investigating the deaths.