Venezuela mourns Nora Castaneda, veteran feminist revolutionary

Nora Castaneda.

Condolences and tributes to legendary revolutionary and champion of women’s rights Nora Castaneda have been pouring in from across Venezuela after news of the activist’s death on May 16.

An economist, university lecturer and much-loved revolutionary, Castaneda is renowned for having founded and presided over Venezuela’s internationally celebrated Women’s Development Bank, “Banmujer” since 2001. She was also one of the chief protagonists of Venezuela's working-class women’s movement that emerged in the 1980s.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeted in tribute: “Nora, mission accomplished … We will remember you with gratitude and admiration, and we will continue your example by building the homeland.”

Born and raised by her mother in a poor single parent family, Castaneda’s upbringing quickly instilled her with a passion for justice for working-class women that extended beyond Venezuela.

In the late 1970s and early '80s, she travelled to Nicaragua to support the Sandinista struggle against the US-backed Somoza regime. She eventually returned to Venezuela to take up the torch of women’s liberation once again.

As a militant of the Socialist League, Castaneda fought against the repressive and corrupt “pacted” democracy of the Fourth Republic that lasted from 1958 to 1998. She sought to bring gender politics to the fore of the left’s political agenda by founding the “Women’s League” from within the party.

After the advent of the Bolivarian revolution, Castaneda’s long history of militant activism earned her the role of chief ally and adviser to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was first elected in 1998. She was key to orientating his government’s politics on gender.

Some of the most progressive gender policies of the Bolivarian revolution, such as the inclusion of the female pronoun throughout the country’s 1999 Constitution, the recognition of women homemakers’ work as “productive” and their right to social security, have been attributed to her activism and input.

Newly appointed Minister for Women and Gender Equality Gladys Requena said: “A fighter, heroine, feminist, brave, compatriot, and a champion of women’s organisation …

“I am pained not to be able to have her here for this stage in women’s organisation, given that she was the architect of this great dream.”

The feminist revolutionary was awarded a posthumous “Order of the Liberator” title by Vice-President Jorge Arreaza on May 17. The order is the highest honour conferred on an individual for service to the Venezuelan homeland.

[Reprinted from Venezuelanalysis.com.]

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