Defence Woman come in Peace?

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Rafael Correa has promised what it is reasonable to call a revolution of the Ecuadorian society – along the lines of Morales and Chavez. He won the election in November and will officially begin as president on January 15. Four years to change it all – quite a challenge. substantial parts of the education section are already privatised off in the first, as seen to by the leaving parties.

Yesterday Correa announced his cabinet, best described as “socialists and women”, if you judge the tone set by the media. (Really there are 17 members of the cabinet, 10 men, 7 women and all more or less socialists.) Amongst them a female defence minister – have you ever heard anything like it?!?!

Today Guadalupe Larriva was all over the radio telling how she was a woman and that women do not do war, they do care; and so she would do her defence job in that way. (As an aside, without wanting to deny anyone’s good intentions, let’s lament here the existence of Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi -amongst others- and celebrate the existence of Harriet Tubman and Phoolan Devi -amongst others- to dispel the myth of the caring woman.)

Later in the day, this afternoon, approaching el oriente in the bus, I wondered what impact Larriva could have on a society so heavily securitised and militarised, as we came to the military police check point, the usual scene:


In one of the many articles quoting Associated Press it read that in “other appointments to his 17-member Cabinet, Correa named women to head the foreign, health, housing, and social welfare ministries. He said he would keep outgoing President Alfredo Palacio’s ministers of tourism and the environment, the only women in the current Cabinet.

Interesting times ahead for Ecuador, which could result in a governance model that paradigmatically breaks with the traditional liberal pattern in which the oldest men, in one way or another, sit centrally and make executive decisions. There are some news worthy stories there, which you can find in the grass roots of civil society, but it is only typical that the main news around the world, on the web right now, focus on the woman in a man’s job. What is so strange about it – after all she is already the president of the socialist party, so she can’t be all too unfamiliar with a bit of patriarchy.


Anyway, exactly how does one do a caring job of handling an army? Can an army or a defence apparatus be caring?

There will surely be a wide range of photo opportunities for the unholy marriage of the caring woman and the armed forces, but here we hope to look closer at the processes of social change from the grass-roots perspective.

Stories to follow, for instance, about a group of sub-suburban Kichwa (indigenous Amazonian) people who are pressed by the city council (of colonos) and a “sister-hood” of catholic real estate magnates to surrender their bit of the river bend, just outside of town, where they live with the spirits of the water. Stories about how they organise to protect their community and whatever is left of their customary practices.

Nothing has changed, so far – privatisation and colonisation continue every single day. So here’s to beauty in the name of change:

Click on the flower to see all of it


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