San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Feminist Party Seeks Own Voice

WOMEN seeking more representation in theLegislative Assembly were offered a solution this week,one that also aims to protect the country from foreignexploitation and find ways to more equally distributewealth among residents.A diverse group of women has launched the NewFeminist League Party and hopes in the next year toassemble enough support in the province of San José toelect at least one feminist legislator in the February2006 national election.With a fundamental goal of increasing gender equalityin Costa Rica, the party was announced to the publicTuesday, International Women’s Day.Although it is in the early stages of development, aninitial meeting last week drew more than 50 women in all stages of life and from diverse backgrounds– university students, Costa RicanElectricity Institute employees, directorsfrom the National Women’s Institute(INAMU) and representatives of a varietyof women’s rights organizations.“AT the root of the party is the need tohave our own voice” instead of “using borrowedmicrophones,” said Ana FeliciaTorres, president of the party’s board ofdirectors.Though female legislators attemptedlast month to unite and create an all womenleadership with the LegislativeAssembly for the coming year (TT, Feb.7), female legislative representation continuesto be “insufficient,” Torres said.Female leadership in the assemblyreceived two blows last month with thedeath of legislator Nury Garita, of theNational Liberation Party (TT, Feb. 25),and the resignation of legislator ofMargarita Penón, of the Citizen ActionParty (PAC), who resigned citing the situationcreated by the decision of her ex-husband(former president Oscar Arias) to runfor President again. Both legislators, however,were replaced by women.“THERE are female legislators who arevery dedicated…but we need our ownvoice,” added Ana Carcedo, another memberof the feminist party. “There may bemany (female legislators) in the assembly(20 of 57), but they are few within their ownparties, so they cannot set the party agenda.”The agenda for the feminist party willnot be based strictly on gender equality, butrather a “different vision” for the country.While opposing the Central AmericanFree-Trade Agreement with the UnitedStates (CAFTA) and what it calls the threatof “neoliberal globalization,” the party isnot dwelling on some “romantic vision” ofCosta Rica’s past, Torres said.“We know modernization is important,but we want to maintain an internal market,while determining how to develop aproductive sector that can compete in theinternational market,” she said.The party aims to stop the country’sagricultural industry from disappearing,leaders say.“Farming land is being turned intoland for free zones,” Torres said. “Wewant to ensure work for campesinowomen, but not as waitresses in hotelsworking for foreigners.”WHILE the party has come up with ageneral agenda, members have yet to forma specific platform, explained leaderRosemary Madden.Backed by the party’s colors: green,violet and yellow, Carcedo explained thatas far as specific proposals, many havealready been made, and have been in theworks for years, by the country’s variouswomen’s organizations.Candidates have not been selected andfew of the new party’s members have specificpolitical experience.Still, Carcedo said she is confidentexperienced politicians will soon join.MEMBERS face the task of acquiringthe requisite 9,000 signatures needed toofficially register as a party with theSupreme Elections Tribunal (TSE).They have begun the formationprocess with the TSE and written theparty’s constitution. The party is currentlyconstituted on the provincial level, ratherthan national, in the province of San José,allowing the possible election of legislatorsand mayors, but not a President.“We want to start making changesfrom the bottom to the top,” Torres said,adding that although based in San José, theparty will represent women’s issuesthroughout the country.Feminists in other provinces arewatching the New Feminist League’sexperiment with curiosity, she said.During a recent party meeting, audiencemembers raised questions about whatis fundamentally meant by feminism, towhich leader Ana Rosa Ruíz responded,“this will be one of the biggest challenges,to determine how to put into practice theconcept of feminism.”Members said they hope not only feministsidentify with the party, but allwomen, and men as well.NEW parties have been popping upeverywhere of late, as Costa Rica’s twolong-time political strongholds – theSocial Christian Unity Party and theNational Liberation Party – have seen betterdays, with major leaders accused ofcorruption and some serving preventivedetention orders.Political analysts say the apparentdemise of Unity and Liberation is not ashort-term trend, but rather a political shiftin the country’s politics, away from a twopartysystem.Leaders of the new feminist party arequick to emphasize they are not capitalizingon any corruption scandals, and thatthe New Feminist League Party is morethan two years coming.“This isn’t just because of the problemswe Costa Ricans have seen lately in politics,”Torres said. “More than two yearsago, a diverse group of women began to discussthe formation of a feminist party.”LEADERS also said the party draws itsroots, inspiration and name from theFeminist League, which fought forwomen’s rights and citizenship status inCosta Rica in the 1920s. Costa Ricanwomen didn’t get to vote in a national election,however, until 1953 (TT, March 4).Members say the green in the new feministparty’s flag represents social equilibriumand aspiration; violet representsdeepness of thought, knowledge and “theidealism that unites us all;” and gold representsthe ultimate desire for success.

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