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New Minister Will Focus on Values

NEWLY appointed Women’s AffairsMinister Georgina Vargas is not going tolet the fact she is a replacement impede herambitions for the role she hopes to play inher office.Brought in to replace former MinisterEsmeralda Britton, who resigned in lateJune after the revelation of discrepanciesin the use of her personal spending account(TT, June 25), Vargas was appointed byPresident Abel Pacheco on June 30. Herterm ends with Pacheco’s in early 2006.“I feel very committed, and feel I mustgive the best I have for this short time Iwill be minister,” Vargas, 48, said.As head of the National Women’sInstitute (INAMU), Vargas is charged withensuring that Costa Rica continues on apath toward gender equality.SHE has a direct, sincere manner ofspeech that commands attention, and is nostranger to the fight for gender and opportunityequality.From 1996 until her appointment, shewas the president of the Social ChristianWomen’s Front, and in 2003 she served asthe Technical Secretary of Christian-Democrat Women of America for CentralAmerica and the Caribbean. From 1998until her appointment, she worked as theexecutive director of the Association forIdeological Studies – a sub-division of theCosta Rican Institute for Political Studies –where she led the creation of programsdesigned to strengthen youth and community-level leaders.Faced with a domestic violence epidemicthat President Pacheco said inJanuary (TT, Jan. 30) embarrassed CostaRica “before the world and before God,”Vargas told The Tico Times this week shewould address the problem, but that shewould not let intra-familiar violence defineINAMU. She pointed out almost all ofCosta Rica’s ministries are involved instopping it.“THIS is not an institute that willfocus only on domestic violence,” she said.“That’s a theme that cuts across all sectorsof the state.”She mentioned the recent efforts of thePublic Security Ministry to train policeofficers in dealing with domestic violencesituations.“A knife fight between two men ismuch different than a man hitting awoman,” she said.Vargas said she believes one of thekeys to preventing the domestic violencesituation from spiraling out of control hereis instilling values in children at home andat school early on.“If a child sees problems within thehome dealt with by violence, it’s possiblethat the child can think it’s normal,” shesaid.Vargas mentioned the special interinstitutionalcommission created inJanuary in response to a rash of domesticviolence slayings. The group meets at leastmonthly, she said, and one of its main projectsis the nearly five-year bill to penalizeviolence against women (TT, Jan 30), currentlystalled in the Legislative Assembly.VARGAS, married and mother to fourchildren – the youngest 19 – also pledgedto increase awareness regarding otherpotential influences children may bereceiving while they are out of school andparents are working.“What do we do with our sons anddaughters when we leave for work? Inwhose hands do we leave them?”She said Costa Rican women faceother grave problems such as extra-familiarand sexual violence, harassment andpsychological abuse in the workplace, andsalary and credit inequality.Vargas mentioned credit several times,and pointed out that just one percent of theworld’s private land is owned by women.She said INAMU will work with BancoNacional and the Mixed Institute for SocialAid (IMAS) to improve credit and smallbusiness opportunities for women.VARGAS applauded the work that hadbeen done at INAMU before her arrival,saying it set the stage for action by providinga detailed analysis of the condition ofwomen here.“Now it’s time to roll up our sleevesand get to work,” she said.Vargas said she comes from a familywith a history in journalism and that she isnamed after her uncle Jorge Vargas, forwhom Costa Rica’s national journalismprize, awarded annually by the Journalists’Association, is named.


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