`I am a feminist. You can revolutionise a country when you make women inclusive to society building’
says, His Excellency Augusto Montiel, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Asserting that `Inclusive, and not divisive politics, IS nation building.' In conversation with Ethel Da Costa
First impressions are always the best, most times. Sitting down His Excellency for an interview was easy. Approachable, friendly and more than happy to share the strides made by his country, the Ambassador of Venezuela in India is a very vocal man.
THE POLITICS OF GENDER
Meeting him at the Women Economic Forum in New Delhi, how do we see equality of gender? I ask the ambassador opening the conversation to our interview. “By equality for all, without distinction of gender or mind. I would say primarily, economic, cultural, social, political, equality of rights and duties, with results that are seen and become tangible. That is our experience in Venezuela,” he shares. Is that how Venezuela produces the world’s largest number of beauty queens, who seem to vanquish world stages and reduce title competitors to tears? Does Venezuela have a fail-safe formula? The Ambassador is amused, laughs heartily, but pauses before he answers. “India should deserve more beauty queens. Indian women are beautiful with the perfect eyes, face and intelligence. However, beauty is judged by western standards and stereotypes of beauty. I’ve been in India last one year and find Indian women to have stature and the right mix of races, which produces unique geno types. Like Venezuelan women who are a mixture of races, cultures and genetics derived from Indigenous tribes, African and European descent,” he elaborates.
POLITICS OF EMPOWERMENT
Stirring the conversation back to politics that drives his country vis a vis India, His Excellency asserts there is more to empowerment than just plain talk. “Our initiatives like the Plan for Gender Equality and Equity “Mama Rosa” (2013-2019) is the third equality plan of the Bolivarian process (Read http://plataformacelac.org/politica/270). We mean business with our laws to enforce and implement the inclusion of girls and women in decision making processes. We have laws for civil and equality rights. Venezuela accepts Women as an `Economic subject.’ Our laws give our women 50% representation and national power in politics, including bodies of the judiciary, electoral and legislative. I know that the President of our Supreme Court was a woman holding the position for 12 odd years. In the top 5 Electoral Commission, four positions were held by women for almost eight odd years. You can revolutionise a country when you make women inclusive to society building. Our budgets invest in education, health and family raising. Our law enforces and implements that no children should be on the streets, but in schools. The United Nations declared Venezuela had no illiterate women (between 2000-2010), that’s because we help society help women to raise her family, and make them subjects of decision making, not objects,” the Ambassador states passionately. When complimented on his confidence to publicly declare himself a Feminist – at the Women Economic Forum sharing the podium with political figures and international ambassadors — His Excellency laughs loud, “I have no complexes. Many would be terrified.”
ADVOCATE ACTS OF CHANGE
Citing that Venezuela was the only country to achieve its 2000 Millennium Goals within 8/9 years, His Excellency believes that equality and equity of gender are built on social justice. He confides “I am a big believer in democracy, but as a socialist.” Citing that his Ministry of Women by law defines the right to live a life without violence, I wonder aloud if that translates into 0% crime rate in Venezuela? There is a definite silence. After some contemplation, the ambassador states, “It would not be truthful to say so,” he confesses, adding that each country must practice core values of ethics, honesty, respect, sense of belonging, cleanliness, communication, trust and discipline without discrimination. “Inclusive and not divisive politics is the key to economic growth and equality. Let’s all of us strive to practice what we preach,” concludes His Excellency Augusto Montiel, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.