Photo: Femmes du Chaos Vénézuélien, retrieved.
Back in December, the Organization of American States (OAS) hosted a screening of the 2017’s documentary by Venezuelan-French director, producer and screenwriter, Margarita Cadenas, “Women of the Venezuelan Chaos.” The film produced by MC2 Productions illustrates the stories of five Venezuelan women from diverse backgrounds who, together, help us understand the suffering that results from the worst economic, social, political, and humanitarian crisis in the country’s history. Extreme food and medicine shortages, widespread fear and a broken justice system are some of the issues touched upon.
With the deliberate intention of showing the impact of the Venezuelan crisis on women, and featuring visuals of the (both ugly and beautiful) reality in the nation, Margarita Cadenas is able to portray what it’s like for these women and their families to live in chaos. The documentary shows their suffering, but also their resourcefulness.
The film also brings to mind a pending conversation for Venezuelans: how are women affected by the crisis? How do we understand gender and the role of women in Venezuela? Are we an evolved society that understands how women and men suffer the crisis differently, and that we have the same rights both in paper, and in actual, day-to-day life?
Most importantly, how can women help pave the way out of the crisis?
The Venezuelan humanitarian crisis is a fact, and food and medicine shortages, limited access to medical services, poverty and inequality, crime, inflation and forced migration are common hurdles, and it all affects women in different ways. Understanding this is having a gender perspective; believing this, how women should enjoy the same opportunities and benefits to survive amidst the entropy, is what makes us feminists.
Consider the mother who has to stand in lines, notice the plural, to get food for her family. Or the woman who needs diapers for her kids and, as featured in the documentary, has to resort to “diaper barter,” just so her baby is well supplied. Think about a teenage girl who wants to go to school but can’t without sanitary pads for her period, and of the mom afraid that her kids will get robbed or killed when walking the streets. The film features a suffering mother whose son has been arbitrarily detained. Consider those moms in Venezuela who fear their offspring could be arrested by the regime without due process. Think of a pregnant lady with no access to prenatal care or a woman who delivers her baby in the unsanitary hall of a hospital (a victim of obstetric violence.) Let’s not forget those who prostitute themselves to feed her family.
It happens abroad, too: Venezuelan migrant women are trafficked as pieces of meat, or suffer work related (or gender) harassment just because they’re women, and migrants.
A much wider problem in our society is that of femicides. We’re not even a month into 2020 and we already have more than six murdered women that we know of. They’re missing or murdered just for being women; the National Assembly’s Subcommission on Women and Gender Equality has gone public on this issue, pointing at some urgent measures that can help curtail the trend, and a street demonstration in Caracas just remembered those who died. All these actions help shed light on the issue, but there is so much more to be done.
* The views are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States.