Yesterday, March 8th, was recognized by countries around the world as International Women’s Day. In Venezuela, there were many achievements to celebrate as well as challenges ahead.
In 2007, the Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free from Violence was passed. It stipulates that 23 women’s shelters must be created throughout the country, but only two have been opened so far, according to an IPS article. Many women rely on the “rehabilitation centers” of the government-funded social mission known as “Negra Hipólita,” which provides services to those in situations of critical poverty. A new National Institute for Women was also created recently. Its initiatives include the expansion of a helpline for women that now provides 24-hour service.
Last week, the head of the gender team of the United Nations Development Programme, Winnie Byanyima (pictured here), was visiting Venezuela. In a Spanish-language interview, Ms. Bayanyima said “the  law promulgated by the Venezuelan government is very important, but it must be put into practice and monitored.”
The UN, together with Spanish International Cooperation Agency, held seminars in Caracas that allowed participants from Spain to share with Venezuelans their experiences with setting up a three-tiered system of services for women who face violence. The seminars were attended by officials from the government’s National Institute of Women as well as police and citizens.