GUATEMALA: FIRST WOMAN TO HEAD CONGRESS

* Originally posted on ANEWS echo
* Original Date: 25 Mar 91 23:28:00
* Original From: Nyt News
* Original Subj: GUATEMALA: FIRST WOMAN TO HEAD CONGRESS

 Source: Peacenet Via New York Transfer News 718-448-2358, 718-448-2683
 Copyright Inter Press Service 1991, all rights reserved.

  by nancy arroyave
  women's feature service

  guatemala city mar 25 (wfs) -- ana catalina soberanis, a 42-year- old
widow with two children,has become the first woman president of
guatemala's national congress.

  but before she could achieve this, soberanis had to fight off strong
opposition from a number of congress members, including some from her own
party - the guatemalan christian democrat party (gcd).

  today, of this central american nation's 116 congress representatives,
only six are women.

  in an exclusive interview to wfs, soberanis revealed she had always
wanted to be involved in activities which would benefit the community.

  "as an adolescent i worked with catholic church groups. then i got into
social service and gave free legal advice, and later, i entered politics.
of course, earlier, i was very active in student politics too," she
recalls.

  while confessing that there were no major obstacles in the way of
achieving her political goals, soberanis points out: "i would say there
were challenges. and the main challenge was to overcome resistance to my
political activities from my male colleagues."

  the most recent example of this was the reaction that her candidature to
the presidency of congress provoked. the gcd, led by former president,
vinicio cerezo, was still in government at that time, holding 51 of the
100 parliamentary seats.

  "many representatives, including those from her own party, refused to
support soberanis because she was a woman," says blanca rosa gonzalez,
director of public relations in the national congress.

  however, this year has been more favourable, despite the fact that gcd
has fewer seats in the legislature and the country's newly-elected
president, jorge serrano, belongs to the solidarity action movement (mas),
a christian socialist party.

  soberanis feels that her greatest achievements are to have promoted
democracy within her party and to have broken new grounds.

  for instance, she admits that as president of the congress, she has been
able to fulfil one of her fondest dreams -- that of creating a special
commission that will promote laws benefitting guatemalan women.

  this parliamentary commission, set up last month, comprises the six women
congress representatives, three of whom belong to the gcd.

  in a significant development, some congressmen have also responded to the
call to work jointly for the overall development and welfare of guatemalan
women.

  soberanis, who is keenly aware of her role in national politics, believes
that guatemalan women who account for 51 percent of the country's 8.5
million people, "are taking great strides ahead and are increasingly
participating as voters as well as the voted."

  however, she also emphasises that "there must be far greater
participation among rural women which can be achieved after they have been
given better educational opportzss

  soberanis has had long experience in public office. during the presidency
of cerezo (1986-1990), she was the first woman to be appointed as minister
for labour and social service.

  today, in addition to leading the country's congress, soberanis is also
vice-president of the central american christian democrat organisation,
joint secretary general of the gcd and director of the guatemalan
institute of political studies.

  earlier, she was a deputy at the national constituent assembly convened
in 1984, and was a member of the special commission appointed for drafting
the new constitution which was approved in 1985.

  soberanis has spent years teaching at guatemala's 'raphael landivar'
private university. besides, she was a renowned basketball player and was
once even selected for the national athletics team.

  and of course, she is a responsible and loving mother to her two children
aged five and 16. (ends/wfs/na/ta/pb/cg/gs/sm)

  End of text from cdp:ips.news

[ * Origin: The New York Transfer News. (1033/102)


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