Célia em Movimento

an E-CHANGER volunteer for 7 years, celia worked until june 2007 for the 'gender sector' of the MST/BA - the rural landless workers movement in the northeastern brazilian state of bahia. from then until june 2010 she worked at the international secretariat of the world march of women in são paulo. although she is no longer a volunteer, she still works in brazil with the WMW and E-CHANGER and will therefore continue to share her professional and personal experiences... enjoy!

30 September 2007

The final triumph of Saint Che

Forty years after his death in Bolivia [9th October, 1967], Guevara is a living force in the town where his body was paraded

Andres Schipani in La Higuera, Bolivia, September 23, 2007
The Observer

By 8pm in the main square of the dusty town of Vallegrande, the only sound is the buzz of prayer coming from the church. Inside, devoted Catholics sit and stand around the image of Our Lord of Malta - the only black Christ in Latin America, brought to this Bolivian town during the Spanish conquest.

But this is not the only foreign element of devotion. Father Agustin, the Polish priest, reads out prayers written down by local people: 'For my mother who is sick, I pray to the Lord and ...', hesitantly, 'to Saint Ernesto, to the soul of Che Guevara.' 'Saint Ernesto,' the parishioners murmur in response.

It was here in Vallegrande, 40 years ago, that the corpse of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara lay on display, eyes open, in the hospital laundry. And it is here that his unofficial sainthood is becoming firmly established. 'For them, he is just like any other saint,' Father Agustin says ruefully. 'He is just like any other soul they are praying to. One can do nothing.'

On a bench in the square, Freddy Vallejos, 27, says: 'We have a faith, a confidence in Che. When I go to bed and when I wake up, I first pray to God and then I pray to Che - and then, everything is all right.' Freddy wears a cap bearing Alberto Korda's iconic image of Guevara. 'Che's presence here is a positive force. I feel it in my skin, I have faith that always, at all times, he has an eye on us.'

Guevara, born in Argentina to an impoverished aristocratic family, was caught on 8 October, 1967, by US-trained Bolivian rangers as he was trying to open up a new front in his revolution. Guevara was executed the following day in a little adobe school in La Higuera, and his body brought the 70 miles to Vallegrande.

Forensic experts found his skeleton 10 years ago and it now rests in a mausoleum in Cuba, where he achieved his most impressive victory in 1959. Standing at the site of his first grave, the president of the Che Guevara Foundation, Osvaldo 'Chato' Peredo, said: 'Why do we say Che is alive? Because of his grandeur, his transcendence. For us, Che is here, very much alive, in everything we say.'

Eight-year-old Juan Ernesto (named after Che), who lives amid Vallegrande's eucalyptus trees, says: 'I feel good that he is right there, close to me.'

In his 1967 dispatch to the Guardian, journalist Richard Gott, in Vallegrande on the day of Guevara's death, wrote: 'It was difficult to recall that this man had once been one of the great figures of Latin America. It was not just that he was a great guerrilla leader; he had been a friend of Presidents as well as revolutionaries. His voice had been heard and appreciated in inter-American councils as well as in the jungle. He was a doctor, an amateur economist, once Minister of Industries in revolutionary Cuba, and Castro's right-hand man. He may well go down in history as the greatest continental figure since Bolivar. Legends will be created around his name.'

Gott was right. Susana Osinaga, a nurse who cleaned Guevara's body back then, recalls: 'He was just like a Christ, with his strong eyes, his beard, his long hair.' Today the laundry where Guevara's corpse was laid is a place of pilgrimage. On the wall above Osinaga, an engraving reads: 'None dies as long as he is remembered.' Osinaga has an altar to Guevara in her home. 'He is very miraculous.'

Gott's companion that day, Christopher Roper, compared Che to a medieval painting of John the Baptist, 'who then became the iconic figure in death for millions who had paid little or no attention to him while he was alive'. Osinaga admits she had no idea who Che was until his death.

In this region, images of Che hang next to images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Pope John Paul II and Bolivia's President Evo Morales. Stories of miracles have mushroomed. The winding road that connects Vallegrande to La Higuera leads to a cluster of humble houses, walls plastered with Che's images and graffiti. In the middle of the village is a cobbled star-shaped square with a small bust of Che; next to it is a large altar with a cross and a big grey sculpture of Guevara. Melanio Moscoso, 37, sits against a wall next to a Guevara poster. 'We pray to him, we are so proud he had died here, in La Higuera, fighting for us. We feel him so close,' he says. His neighbour, Primitiva Rojas, professes devotion: 'I have lots of faith in him. Because he stopped existing does not mean he is not here with us.' A few days ago, when feeling sick, she prayed to him and soon felt better. 'That same night I dreamt of a man with a black beard and tender eyes, who was telling me: "I was the one who cured you".'

According to his executioner, Mario Teran, Guevara's last words were: 'Calm down and point well; you are about to kill a man.' What came after the shots, according to inhabitants of La Higuera like Manuel Cortes, was that 'Saint Ernesto was born in La Higuera'.

In Pucara, Remi Calzadilla wears a beige cap that says 'Che'. He prays to him every day. 'And he helped me; a few years ago I couldn't walk at all', he says, describing how every time he 'speaks' to Che he feels 'a strong force inside of him'.

'I am devoted to him as if he were a saint,' Remi's grandfather, Conrado Calzadilla, 83, adds, jutting a proud chin in the direction of one of the images of Che plastered on the wall of his home. 'Still, 40 years after his death?', I asked. 'Always', he replies. 'Always.'

With local sainthood and worldwide immortality, history has not proved true the claim that Guevara made on the day he was captured. 'Halt, do not shoot, I am Che Guevara and I am worth more alive than dead,' he said, as he lay wounded on a rock. In that same stone today, a shiny white inscription reads: 'Che is alive.'


16 September 2007

The figure that shows it pays to be a man

· Gender pay gap among managers on rise again
· Number of senior women quitting also on increase

John Carvel, social affairs editor, September 5, 2007, The Guardian

The gender pay gap among managers across Britain has widened for the first time in 11 years as women, from trainees to chief executives, have failed to keep pace with the rise in male earnings, the Chartered Management Institute disclosed yesterday. In a survey of more than 42,000 managers in every sector, it found women averaged £43,571 last year, while the men averaged £49,647.

The gap had been shrinking, from 13.6% of earnings in 2003 to 11.8% in 2005, as more women have broken through the glass ceiling blocking career progression. But last year it widened to 12.2% among managers of all grades - and at director level the gulf was even more pronounced, increasing from 20% to 23%.

The institute said this departure from the trend was worrying. And the Equal Opportunities Commission said: "It is alarming to hear that for this section of the workforce the gender pay gap is actually getting worse."

The biggest bastion of inequality was in the food and drink industry, where male managers earned 46% more than their female counterparts, closely followed by people working in pensions and insurance, where the gap was 43.2%. In human resources - the managers who are supposed to enforce the equal pay legislation - the gap between men and women was 40; and in retailing it was 33.9%.

The most equal sectors were IT, where the gap was 11.7%, the public sector and charities, where it was only 0.7%.

The survey found that more than a third of Britain's managers are women and they are climbing up the corporate ladder faster than their male colleagues. The average female team leader is 37, five years younger than her male counterpart. The average female department head is 40, three years younger than her male equivalent. And the average female director is 44, four years younger than the boardroom males.

Women managers were also more likely to be awarded a performance bonus. Last year 63.4% of the women got a one-off payment, compared with 55.9% of men. Yet their average overall earnings lagged £6,076 behind the men's and there were indications that more women were responding by quitting their jobs, in many cases to set up their own businesses outside the discriminatory world of paid employment.

Last year 7.8% of female managers handed in resignations, compared with 6.4% of male colleagues. It was the highest female resignation rate since 2002. Jo Causon, the institute's marketing director, said: "It is clear the pull of promotion is not being matched by parity in pay. Despite the weight of legislation and the reality that reward should match responsibility, gender bias seems to be getting worse, not better."

The widening earnings gap might be partly due to a relatively high proportion of women managers in the public sector, where pay increases were lower last year after a period of substantial growth. But Ms Causon said employers should be worried that the earnings gap was more than £6,000 and rising. They were struggling to recruit and retain good managers and increasing gender inequality was not the answer. The survey also found women wanted more opportunities for training and career development, a better working environment and flexible working, she said.

Skills crisis

Val Lawson, chair of the Women in Management Network, said: "The fact that the proportion of women in senior positions continues to grow is encouraging, but their increasing likelihood to resign is a cause for concern. If employers allow this trend to continue the knowledge gap in UK organisations will be exacerbated at the very time we are trying to challenge the skills crisis."

Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said the evidence of a widening pay gap was alarming and underlined the need for updating anti-discrimination legislation.

The Department for Communities and Local Government ended consultation yesterday on a "single equality bill" that the government is expected to publish in draft form next year. Ms Watson said: "The Equal Pay Act has been in place for more than 30 years and is now in serious need of modernisation. The EOC is calling for employers to tackle systemic pay inequality effectively."

Jenny Westaway, project manager of the Fawcett Society, said this "worrying evidence" highlighted the need for the government to act to "stop women being short changed thousands of pounds a year". Last week a Guardian survey of Britain's top 100 companies found only two had female chief executives last year and their pay lagged well behind the male average.