Resilience and Willingness in Making Laws that Are the Change
She sees politics as the best way to do something for other people while touching society and realizing the dream of progress for the country and for every woman. Her dream is to open a retirement place where women can age happily and dance and laugh together with them… as if time would never make their lives fade; she wishes that young girls can share their youth and strength within politics, as they should realize that politics are not only necessary, but good for every society as it opens the road to real power for women.
Martha Carla Humeres Ruiz, born in Tarija, Bolivia, has grown up surrounded by mostly males in her life, got married early and as a mother of a newborn was harassed and besieged by a dictatorial government for political reasons. Her mother helped her with the kids while she was getting her BS in Food Treatment at the Juan Misael Saracho public University*. But, her mother died when her kids were very young and being a woman, wife, and worker without that help was no easy task. She added political work to this maremagnum and made her life even more challenging. She has been a titular deputy once and assistant deputy twice within the Bolivian Congress. She has been in politics for over 31 years now, and got a chair in the congress 8 years ago, after 23 years of struggle. She never gave up.
“A woman committed suicide due to the lack of opportunities and discrimination; no one would shake her hand due to her AIDS disease. I could not be indifferent, so I worked hard to get the Law of Health Care for HIV/AIDS Patients to be passed in the Bolivian Congress and signed by the President; this is a great honor and I’m proud to have helped”, said this tall woman with brown, sincere eyes and long hair, talking about her biggest achievement with a humble demeanor.
The frontiers of politics are part of her reality since 1978, when the country was facing a harsh transition from dictatorship to democratic governments. Her party, MIR (Movement of Revolutionary Left), in the late 60s lost a handful of leaders in one armed action from a dictatorship of the time and was on top of the wave of politics in the country. She began to campaign and protest to make women visible for politics at local and national levels, as males were used to leaving them out of the lists alleging there were no women available. She and her teammates changed this issue. The road was tough, many times they had to protest in order to make themselves visible. In fact, when the former constitution was reformed, they also passed the law of the 30, percentage by which women must be included by all political parties in elections lists. The new Constitution approved by the party of Evo Morales, (MAS – Movement Towards Socialism), does not set percentages anymore, but includes the principles of parity (equal number of men and women in the lists) and alternation (if a man goes for deputy and a woman for assistant deputy, the next deputy position will be held by a woman), ‘The December election this year will be the first for this method to be tested in the field and we are eager to see how it works’, said a cheerful Martha, while kindly requesting to be called by her first name.
Sexual abuse in children has risen 120% in the last two years in Bolivia, and 50% of the rapes end up in the death of the victim. These spine chilling numbers are being faced by the Bolivian Congress Social Committee, whose President, central right party UN (National Unity) deputy Guillermo Mendoza, very respected in Bolivian society for his social work with underprivileged populations, has presented a law for the biological and chemical castration of rapists. In this early stage, the project for this law is being presented in every capital city of all nine departments. In Tarija, Assistant Deputy Humeres has been one of the 90 representatives who gathered this weekend for a public hearing about it, where she has shown her opposition to the use of this kind of violence to fight sexual violence. In her words, a penis is not necessary to hurt a child. ‘The violent act is in the mind of the abuser, as he can penetrate with any kind of instrument or commit abuse by getting naked in front of the child, or by making the child getting naked, so it is very important to work in the minds of the people prone to this behavior, rather than creating worse monsters by exerting more violence, she states.
“Preaching with example”, is the phrase we would like to use to refer to this point of view, as her party and UN are politically more close than apart, and she still is not convinced by this project. She could vote under the slogan of being similar parties who share votes, but she will not go for that. She will vote by her conscience. This is the kind of woman she is.
She has worked making alliances with women from all parties in the National Political Forum of Women and a handful of them, including her, have reached in one time or another a titular deputy office. It took her 28 years to get there. She prefers to work closer to the people, so she is fine when she is the assistant deputy, although working for half the salary. The main issue is to have the privilege to be near the citizens, so go look for your assistant deputies, they will always be more willing to listen to you, are her wise last words.
*At the time there was only one University in Tarija: the public one, Juan Misael Saracho, and it was very hard to get in, specially for women.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.