Date of Graduation

Winter 12-14-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies

Department/Program

International Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Tiffany Linton-Page

Abstract

Abstract

I examine the following elements in regards to women’s mobilization in Latin America and Venezuela from the late 1950s to the present: (a) the influence of the state and economy on times when women mobilized (b) class division within the movement (c) women’s demands during different time periods (d) the ways in which women were successful in working towards gender equality. This thesis reviews the literature on women’s mobilization in Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century. I find that women mobilized across class lines with the masses to end dictatorships. Women demobilized during transitions to democracy due to partisan rivalry. During the neoliberal era women in Latin America mobilized across middle and lower classes for social services, economic stability, and employment opportunities. They were successful in receiving social welfare programs funded by the state. In some cases in Latin America, women across middle and lower classes mobilized with men for a socialist state that would include gender equality initiatives in its transformation. Countries that underwent the transition to socialism contributed to women’s mobilization efforts by including women in leadership roles and the armed forces. At this time, women were successful in receiving a broader range of social services funded by the state, political inclusion, and economic opportunity.

I then examine in-depth women’s mobilization in Venezuela with an emphasis on the past fifteen years under the government of Hugo Chávez. Women’s mobilization from the 1950s to the 1990s took similar forms in relation to the rest of the region. However, Venezuela is a unique case because of what women were able to accomplish with support from the state from 1999 to today. Venezuela was the first to create a gender inclusive constitution with social security benefits for homemakers. Additionally, Venezuela was able to maintain a state of democracy over the last fifty-four years since the removal of dictatorship in 1958. Venezuela has also invested one of the largest amounts of revenue in its social welfare missions that have predominantly assisted poor women. The Chávez government has included feminist ideology in its socialist rhetoric that has opened up the opportunity for further accomplishments in the struggle for gender equality.

The analysis of the Venezuelan case nuances our understanding of how politics and economics shape women’s mobilization in Latin America because of its success in maintaining an environment conducive towards gender equality.