Chile, Post-earthquake reconstruction process: “An opportunity to show the importance of womens organisation for democratisation”

For the second time women from regions afected by the earthquake last year met at a forum for experience exchange. The forum began on April 26th in Santiago and continued in Talca (27th) and Concepción (28th), it was organized by a range of organisations, among others SUR Corporación de Estudios Sociales y Educación, Fundación Dialoga, Observatorio de Género y Equidad, SurMaule. About 60 women were participating at the forum. Activists and organisation leaders mainly from the regions Maule and Bio Bio spoke about their experiences after more than „one year without reconstruction“ – a slogan proclaimed by the protest movement at the first anniversary of the earthquake.

In one of the opening speeches Verônica Dos Anjos (UN Women, Regional Office for Brasil and Cono Sur) emphasised the significance of the forum for the „UN Women“ which supported (financially) the seminar/workshop: The experiences of women at this forum would be very important for learning how to deal with the situation after an earthquake since there are no other examples in the Cono Sur.

In the first panel Marisol Saborido (Corporación Sur, Red Mujer y

 Hábitat AL, Chile

) pointed out that there was not just one earthquake but rather we have to consider the impacts of the earthquake resulting in 3 earthquakes: a fisical one, a social and emotional one and a political one. Therefore acitivities are realised at different levels. The conditions for the reconstruction process as well as political activities are similar and can be subsumed under two aspects: the weakness of institutions and the privatisation of the reconstruction process. There is neither any urban planification nor the political will to organise the process – „there is no reconstruction“ summed up Marisol Saborido. And that seems obvious seeing the facts: 132.000 subsidies have been applied, but till this day only 560 new habitations have been built.

The activities of local organisations presented within the panel „Local Actors“ range from providing social support for women and organising empowerment activities (like e.g. workshops) to realising symbolical and artistic campaigns in the public space and entering into the dialogue with local and regional authorities as well as the government.

As an example: Francisca Oróstica from Sur Maule (Talca) told about the campaign „Women for the city“ which aimed to visualise the complex situation women are experiencing after the earthquake. Five white plastic figures were put at different places within the city of Talca and inhabitants were called to let massages on it. One issue for example was the violence against women that is increasing since the earthquake – an issue which was also present but kept more in the background while the forum. After one week were held a press conference where the painted figures were presented and the campaign earned a remarkable public attention.

Generally the participating women were sharing the opinion that the only posibility to achieve and change something in the post-earthquake reconstruction process is to mobilise the citizens and to strengthen the civil society. Womens organisations play an important role therin. Maria Paz Becerra, coordinator of the programs „Fondo Alquimia“ emphasised: „The post-earthqauke situation opens up the opportunity to show the importance of womens organisations for the democratisation.“

After the talks a lively discussion started, in which various women told their own experiences with the local situation, their social/political work under precarious conditions, their arguments with local authorities etc.; others expressed their disappointment about the fact that not even represantatives of the oppositional political parties are supporting the local movements.

The workshop afterwards opened up an international perspective: Organisation leaders from Honduras and Guatemala met with women from regional organisations.