Brazil: Change Dawned with Resolution 1325

It is a historic moment for Brazil: we had two female candidates to president (Dilma Roussef and Marina Silva) that together received the majority of votes in the election. Now we have the perspective of electing the first woman president, that’s an achievement,” said Clara Charf, one of the main references of the feminist movement in Brazil. In the month in which the 10th anniversary of United Nations Resolution 1325 is celebrated, one that brought a series of proposals to combat violence against women and give them more political participation, Charf concedes an exclusive interview in which she speaks about her history of struggle and the progress of the Resolution’s implementation in Brazil.

Current chairperson of NGO Women for Peace, at age 85, Clara Charf is also known for being the widow of veteran leftist Carlos Marighela, murdered by agents of the dictatorship in the 1970′s. Her history of militancy in the feminist and pacifist movements begins well before she gets to know the emblematic character of Brazil’s armed resistance. Already in 1945, Clara had engaged herself in protests against the participation of the Brazilian army in the latter stages of World War II. Still at the end of the 50′s, she participated in founding de Women League of the State of Guanabara, starting her militancy in the very beginnings of the feminist movement in the country.

She had to go into exile in Cuba in the time of the dictatorship, only returning to Brazil with an amnesty by the end of the 70′s. She also took part in the administration of the mayor of Sao Paulo, Luiza Erundina (1988 to 1991). But it was with the initiative of indicating 1000 women for the 2005 Nobel Peace prize that Clara Charf consolidated her role as one of the main leaders of the feminist movement in the country, and with worldwide projection. “She is one of the few people that became a reference to many diverse women movement currents in Brazil, because she brings into the fold many different tendencies of feminism,” explains Vera Vieira, executive director of NGO Women for Peace.

In 2003, Clara Charf was chosen to coordinate the selection process of the Brazilian women that would be part of the group of 1000 nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2005. She was contacted by the Swiss NGO Peace Women Across the Globe (PWAG) to carry forward in Brazil the process that culminated with the selection of 52 Brazilians to compete for the Nobel. They didn’t win the prize, it eventually went to the International Atomic Energy Agency, but that wasn’t reason enough for the network that had been constructed by the women to disintegrate. At least not in Brazil, where Clara Charf and a group of women widened their action, with the purpose of fighting violence against women.

The main inspiration of the group came precisely from Resolution 1325, but with a wider concept than acting only in war conflicts. “We began to understand that the struggle wasn’t restricted to situations of war. There for, we turned to defending values of human security and justice,” says Clara Charf. Immediately after the Nobel initiative, the group started touring the country with an exposition that counted and spread the story of the prize nominated Brazilians.

From there the seed emerged of an association that was juridically founded in 2008, the NGO Women for Peace, of which Clara Charf is founder and holds the post of Chairman. “In 2005, already with 80 years old, she sustained an impressive dynamism, traveled to all corners of the country and abroad, went to Switzerland and to other countries, to represent the Brazilian women network,”, Vera Vieira points out.

Only at the start of 2010 did Clara Charf slightly reduce the rhythm of activities, because of a health problem (she fractured her femur), but she can’t wait for the time to return to activity. Last August, she took part in a seminar in Sao Paulo to bring together the activists of the most recent campaign promoted by her NGO. The campaign “Women for Peace”, held since 2008, is one of the examples of how Resolution 1325 has been implemented in Brazil. Many female leaders indicated to the Nobel, “adopted” 3 youngsters each, who went trough a process of training and received support to develop projects.

It is the case of communicator Mara Régia di Perna, who “adopted” the 3 youngsters to develop workshops and radio spots with the theme “peace is a way to combat violence against women”. The group acts in the nine states of Legal Amazonia and conveys the spots on Amazonas National Radio and on local stations. Another example is Raimunda Gomes da Silva, from the Tocantins state, that recruited youngsters from the region to promote a work of forest protection and development of extraction as a means of family income.

NGO Women for Peace is now getting ready to launch a new campaign that aims at acting on the issue of domestic violence. “It is the first time that we will take actions involving both women and men, actions to combat violence within homes. It is a very serious cultural problem that involves both genders. In average, in Brazil a woman is beaten every 15 second,” says Vera Vieira.

While Resolution 1325 still produces below expectation results in many countries and even at UN level, some examples like the one of Clara Charf and the Brazilian women network are exceptions that might show the way. After 10 years of existence, there hasn’t been a significant increase in women participation in the decision-making processes and in UN’s peace missions, but in some countries like Brazil, the regulation continues to inspire a series of social projects.

An exclusive interview of Clara Charf on October 9, 2010 follws:

Question: What does the 10th anniversary of UN’s Resolution 1325 represent?

Clara Charf: Resolution 1325 represents a new stage in the history of mankind. I’m from a time in which the UN didn’t even exist. At that time, arguments were discussed in terms of War or Peace. From the year 2000, new thesis emerged. From the Resolution the struggle for peace integrated other new elements. The struggle widened, we began to understand that it wasn’t only to combat violence against women. The struggle was against all forms of violence and inequality. It is a wider concept, we are talking about Human security and justice.

What did the articulation of 1000 women for Nobel Peace prize in 2005 represent?

Charf: Even having not won the Nobel in that year, we articulated a strong network of women for peace in Brazil and in many countries. Each of the personal stories of these Brazilians is depicted in books, and we then took the exposition to various regions of the country. With that, we helped to demonstrate the evolution in women consciousness, and in human consciousness. Each one of them has an important contribution in incorporating de struggle for peace in daily life. And all of that was strengthened by Resolution 1325.

How do you manage to agglutinate the many diverse currents of women movements?

Charf: Many say I’m a person that agglutinates the currents of the women movement and of other movements. I believe that happens because I have a long militancy background. I began acting in 1945, since the end of World War II. I fought against Brazilian participation in the war. It is a very old struggle, there wasn’t even the women movement yet. In that time it was hard for others to understand me; they asked what I had to do with it, for instance, with the peoples of Latin America. Today it is easier to explain to the public the issue of solidarity with other peoples.

How do you analyze the option for armed resistance in the period of military dictatorship?

Charf: In that time either you supported or you were against the regime. Some people tried to act trough raising awareness, and others turned to weapons, with the same objective. The dictatorship killed a lot of people, I lost my husband (Carlos Marighela). I had to go to exile, many positive experiences came from that as well. I went to Cuba, I met the Cuban people. Then came the amnesty, and democracy returned. In each moment we positioned ourselves to face the problems of the time.

How do you see the possibility of the first female president being elected in Brazil?

Charf: it is an important historic moment. I’m really hoping for the first woman to be elected for the presidency of the country. It is a very strong experience, even more so for a country with continental dimensions as is the case of Brazil. It sets women in another level in our nation. It is a big leap that has been accumulating since the re-democratization, with the history of women participation in movements, in associations and in parties.

Can you mention other examples of progress in political participation of women?

Charf: The indication of representatives like Marina Silva and also Luiza Erundina (ex-mayor of Sao Paulo) in the 1000 women group for the Nobel has to do with that evolution. They represent the largest female participation in political decisions in the country. Erundina was the first Mayor of a big city after the dictatorship. Marina has humble origins, as well as Erundina, and represents the politicization of women in the Amazon region. They are true peace soldiers, and so are many others. (Oct. 2010)

* Alexandre Sammogini, based in Sao Paulo, is Editor-in-Chief of the International Press Agency ‘Pressenza’ []

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