Costa Rican women can give thanks for many things:
Educationally, they have comparative literacy and enrollment rates as their male counterparts. Economically, they are doing exponentially better than their Central American neighbors, such as Nicaragua. Politically, they are represented by the country’s first female president, Laura Chinchilla. Legally, they are protected by a pro-woman legislature and institutions such as the INAMU, or National Institution of the Woman. Socially, however, there is ground to be covered.
A downtown billboard this week read “at least 42 women and girls died this year from violence against women.” Despite the on paper A+, Costa Rican women still face gender discrimination on a daily basis. The suggestion that they could best serve as a secretary, the expectation being to quit a job when pregnant, and the constant heckling, whistles, and overtly inappropriate gestures from men on the street are clear signs that women are not equals. A local TV campaign claims “Laws can help, but nothing changes if attitudes don’t change from within.”
Costa Ricans, or Ticos, are an extremely accommodating people. They tend to shy away from confrontation and arguments. They will give you directions even if they have no idea, because being polite and wrong is far better than being rude. While this can be refreshing in a world where conflict is the norm, it can also lead to subtle undercurrents and issues such as gender equality being pushed under the table, albeit with a smile and a perdón. Now I’m not asking anyone to pull a North Korea here, but sometimes, a little confrontation can be a good thing.
Apparently the women of Costa Rica and Fundación Mujer agree with me, which is why they are celebrating November 25 not as Thanksgiving, but as International Day for the Elimination for Violence against Women. It’s a long name with a simple, uncompromising goal: Defend the rights of all women. Starting on Wednesday night and continuing throughout the weekend there are a series of activities focused on women. One can take their pick of lectures, dramas, and marches.
Here at Fundación Mujer, we chose to go beyond micro-credit, get out of the office and march in solidarity with women everywhere. Take a look!