I came across this quote on Denise’s blog and I really enjoyed it –

Não entendo. Isso é tão vasto que ultrapassa qualquer entender. Entender é sempre limitado. Mas não entender pode não ter fronteiras. Sinto que sou muito mais completa quando não entendo. Não entender, do modo como falo, é um dom. Não entender, mas não como um simples de espírito. O bom é ser inteligente e não entender. É uma benção estranha, como ter loucura sem ser doida. É um desinteresse manso, é uma doçura de burrice. Só que de vez em quando vem a inquietação: quero entender um pouco. Não demais: mas pelo menos entender que não entendo.

Clarice Lispector


Homage to women

My brother put up a beautiful post in his blog, paying tribute to women… I confess it brought some tears to my eyes and I decided to copy it here:

É difícil escrever um texto em homenagem às mulheres porque sei de antemão que as palavras são insuficientes para expressar a importância delas em nossas vidas. São ao mesmo tempo a nossa perdição e a nossa salvação. Elas têm o poder.

O poder de levantar nossa cabeça nos momentos difíceis, de nos colocar para frente. Nos dão ânimo para suportar todas as dificuldades e para nos manter no caminho certo. Nos dão força e uma persistência que não é tão nata nos homens e é fundamental para termos sucesso na vida.

O poder de nos consolar nos momentos de dor, justamente quando somos mais frágeis. Sim, pois nós homens temos uma limitadíssima resistência à dor, seja emocional ou física. As mulheres crescem nestes momentos e, mesmo sofrendo dor igual, assumem o papel de nos guiar nesses mares revoltos.

O poder de nos suavizar. Através do contato com sua sensibilidade aprendemos a dar valor às pequenas coisas da vida e abrir mais nosso espírito para o mundo a nossa volta. Sim, sei que não somos perfeitos, esquecemos de reparar uma série de detalhes. Mas seria muito pior sem as mulheres ao nosso lado.

O poder de nos perder. Sim, as mulheres têm tanto poder que ficamos perdidos se elas assim quiserem. Quantos de nós perderam a cabeça e fizeram grandes bobagens pela rejeição de uma mulher? Ou simplesmente sofreram com a perda de um grande amor? Sim, quando elas resolvem ser cruéis não temos força para resistir. Somos facilmente dominados.

O poder do amor. Este é o fundamental. Convivendo com estes seres especiais aprendemos o verdadeiro sentido do amor. Não o amor mesquinho, mas o amor como deve ser, o amor incondicional. O amor que não exige, que não oprime. O amor de cumplicidade e doação. Aprendemos com nossas mães e avós, mas só o compreendemos com nossas metades.

É difícil escrever sobre as mulheres. Confesso que não ligo muito para este Dia Internacional da Mulher. Para mim elas não precisam de dia para lembrarmos delas ou homenageá-las. Elas estão tão ligadas em nossas vidas e são tão importantes que a eternidade seria pouco para agradecermos tudo que fazem por nós.

Só posso pedir que continuem nos perdoando e tentando nos fazer melhores porque sem as mulheres… bem… não dá nem para pensar… Afinal… elas têm o poder!

A strong woman

Heloisa Bezzi was born on April 1, 1916 in the mountainous town of Petropolis, Brazil to a very influential family. She was the oldest of four children. Her great-grandfather was the Viscount of Ouro Preto, the last prime minister of the Brazilian monarchy, and her grandfather was a famous writer and founding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Her family was extremely well connected and she was assured of life of leisure and education. She learned English and French and played the piano and the accordion. But a life of leisure was not what she wanted for herself.

Her father, a cattle rancher, died when she was 14 and the day after the funeral, she packed her bags and moved in with an aunt. Her relationship with her mother had always been difficult and she saw no reason for staying. “Where are you going?” Her mother asked when she saw her suitcase packed. “The only person I cared about in this house is now dead – I see no reason for staying”. She was hard, very hard.

She studied. She went to university in a day and age when few people did. Not satisfied with that, she moved a thousand kilometers south to work as an accountant in an Engineering firm. She still has a picture of all the employees together – she’s the only woman.

At 28 years old, she was engaged to a diplomat but still unmarried. She then met João Paiva, an illiterate cowboy at her father’s ranch, four years her junior. Their relationship shocked the family. They accused him of marrying her for the money. She promptly gave up every penny and they got married. He had to teach her how to wash dishes and she had to teach him how to write his own name. They were poor and both worked full time. When asked about her fortunes she simply replied “I’ve had the life of privilege, now I want to experience the other side of the coin.”

He died from congenital heart disease at the age of 64, after 40 years together. She never forgot him. Together they raised seven strong-willed daughters, one of which is my mother.

Vó, esse dia é para a senhora…

Me & gramma

International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day. This year’s event is devoted to ending violence against women and Denise, from Sindrome de Estocolmo, called for a collective posting on the issue to raise awareness. Since I’m in Spain at the moment, I decided to look into the issue of violence against women here, how does it compare to other countries in Europe and what has been done about it.

A 1994 study of ten selected causes and risk factors for disability and death among women between 15-44 years old has shown that rape and domestic violence rated higher than cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria. Imagine that! It kills or disables more women than cancer!
The Council of Europe has recently launched a campaign against domestic violence throughout Europe calling parliaments, governments and local authorities of the 46 member states to join forces with local and international NGOs to eradicate this pernicious crime. Currently, 12% to 15% of European women over 16 have suffered domestic abuse in a relationship and many have died.

The Council defines domestic violence as: “one of the most serious and pervasive forms of violence against women. It exists in all Council of Europe member states and occurs at all levels of society. Domestic violence is most often perpetrated by men against former or current intimate partners, although it is recognised that violence is also perpetrated by women and occurs in same-sex relationships. (…)
…the term ‘violence against women’ is to be understood as any act of gender-based violence, which results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: a. violence occurring in the family or domestic unit, including, inter alia, physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse, rape and sexual abuse, incest, rape between spouses, regular and occasional partners and cohabitants, crimes committed in the name of honours, female genital and sexual mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, such as forced marriages.”

In Spain there is a Instituto de la Mujer, part of the Secretaría General de Políticas de Igualdad, which issued a comprehensive study on the issue of violence against women in Spain last year. According to this study, 3.6% of women in Spain over 18 declares having been victim of abuse during the last year by a person living in the same household. This percentage represents a total 677,352 women. A further 9.6% are considered “technically” abused, which represents a total 1,786,978 women. Not all is bad news – these numbers have improved in recent years. The first used to be 4% in 2002 and the second came down from 11.1% (2002). In 1999 the figues were 4.2% and 12.4%. In Catalunya the percentage of abused was 12.1% (1999), 9.7% (2002) and 8.9% (2006).

Over 75% of abuse is caused by the woman’s partner – whether husband, fiancée, boyfriend or ex. Over 66% of women declare having been suffering abuse for more than five years.

In 2006, 68 women were killed in Spain by their partner or ex-partner. So far, 3 women were killed in Catalunya this year, the latest being Mercedes Molina from the town of Badalona who was burned alive by her husband. She was 58 years old.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Catalan government has announced a new law to fight domestic violence. There are two main changes to the current law:

  • official charges will no longer be necessary to guarantee a woman’s protection and access to juridical & social services. This was brought forward by the fact that only 30% of the women killed by their partner had previously denounced them to the authorities.
  • government officials will take in consideration only the woman’s income when granting the right for free legal services; this decision used to be based on the family’s income which prevented many women abused by their husbands who were nevertheless economically dependent to have access to legal counsel and other services.

I haven’t been here for long but I can say that the issue is discussed continuously on the media. A new law came into effect in 2004 to deal with the issue and while I don’t have the specifics on the impact it has been having, people are always calling on the government to closely monitor its effects and update what isn’t working. A sign of this is the new law being proposed here in Catalunya. I can say that there is at least awareness of the problem and with awareness will come a higher sensitivity and less tolerance towards those who commit these kinds of crimes.

Women in both Spain and Catalunya seem to be highly organized and vocal. Hopefully the numbers of women killed/abused will recede even more in the upcoming years.

Some links:

International Women’s Day 2007

Combating Violence Against Women: Stocktaking study – very thorough study listing recommendations and monitoring what individual European countries have done to tackle the issue.

Status of Women Canada – International Women’s Day in Canada


If you have a blog, join us in this “group posting” about International Women´s Day. Write something about March 8th, women, gender violence, or simply post about local events associated with the day on your blog. You can also post a picture, a poem…  If you do, let me know!