Montevideo +1: Reengaging Activists with the Government in Paraguay

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) first intergovernmental conference on population and development held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The outcome document from that meeting, known as the Montevideo Consensus, has been hailed as one of the most progressive documents on sexual and reproductive rights ever agreed to at any diplomatic negotiation . This week, Akimbo is featuring profiles on a few of the women who took part at the Montevideo negotiation; we’re reporting on what they’ve been doing to hold their governments accountable to this landmark agreement.

We first met Mirta “Michi” Moragas, a feminist lawyer and human rights activist from Paraguay, in July 2012 at our Advocacy in Practice (AiP) workshop in Quito, Ecuador. At that workshop, Mirta emerged as a strong advocate and helped secure important government agreements at an ECLAC regional meeting. She continued her successful advocacy streak a year later in Montevideo.

“The Montevideo Consensus shows us how much Latin America as a region has advanced in its recognition of sexual and reproductive rights,” said Mirta. “Certainly the advances vary across countries and there is still much work to be done, but achieving this Consensus [was] vital.” She highlighted the need for activists like herself to “continue to work more at the national level to ensure that the Consensus is translated into reality for every person, but especially for women.”

To support her national efforts, the International Women’s Health Coalition gave Mirta a small grant through Las Ramonas, a grassroots feminist organization that promotes feminism as a political tool to achieve social change and equality. With this support, Mirta and Las Ramonas is providing advocacy training and mentorship to 17 young feminist activists in Paraguay. These activists are working to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights nationally and to ensure that these issues are included in the next global development agenda that will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

This training couldn’t come at a better time. After a political coup overthrew Fernando Lugo’s leftist government in June 2012, many progressive civil society activists disengaged from advocacy with the government, resulting in a vacuum that allowed conservative forces to gain influence with the new administration. Mirta and Las Ramonas hope to encourage progressive activists to reengage with government.

In addition to the advocacy training, Las Ramonas is working with youth and feminist networks to identify critical policy gaps in women’s rights and gender equality that must be fixed by the government. The project will culminate in a forum for young activists later this year, during which the 17 feminist activists mentored by Las Ramonas will share the results of their advocacy efforts.

Mirta says that advocacy trainings like IWHC’s AiP workshop are indispensable for young activists. “The training space that IWHC facilitated has been very important to arrive in the process with concrete tools. Understanding the possibilities, limitations, and context [for government negotiations] helped us to work more effectively, because sometimes we arrive for the first time in these spaces and no one takes the time to support us.” Through the Las Ramonas project, Mirta hopes to share this knowledge with other young feminists in her country.

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