International Woman´s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and it will be celebrated here on Lanzarote, as it will around the world. What better time to look at just a few of the women who have put Lanzarote on the map.

historical figures
Island tales celebrate the “princesses” of the original natives of Lanzarote, with legendary names such as Teguise, Ico, Fayna and Yaiza preserved in place names and girl’s names. Later, the story of Doña Ana Viciosa shows that women could be rich, influential and powerful even in a male-dominated society. A slave’s granddaughter, Ana married a nobleman who died young, inheriting his land and building several villages in the north of the island.

Politics
Banned from voting and standing for office until 1979, women have since risen to every level of power on Lanzarote. There have been several female Presidents of the Cabildo and the current two Mayors on the island, María Dolores Corujo and Eva De Anta, are the latest in a long line. Astrid Pérez leads the PP on the island, and a number of female politicians have also represented the island on mainland Spain. Read more...

 

Meanwhile, on La Graciosa, the redoubtable Doña Margarona has transformed her island, and is just one of several tough, feisty Gracioseras.

Art & Culture
Lanzarote’s most famous personality is probably the singer Rosana, whose international success hasn’t changed her love for her native island. 60 years ago, another Lanzarote girl, Luisa Linares, left the island and found international success with her husband Miguel Galindo.
In art, the legacy of potter Dorotea de Armas can be seen everywhere, while Rufina Santana is just one of the talented women artists who have found success in recent years.
On screen, Arrecife-born Goya Toledo has combined beauty with talent, appearing in several acclaimed films and currently starring in an HBO TV series, La Sala.

Fighting for justice
The list of Lanzarote women who devote their lives and energy to making the world a better place is far too long to list here, but must surely include names such as Sor Ana, the nun who has helped the homeless for years; Carmen Arrocha, President of the AFOL cancer charity, Nieves Rosa Hernández of the Mararía women’s association and Myriam Barros of the chambermaid’s campaign group Las Kellys.

Vicenta Monge is the President of Tiemar, the women’s association based in Playa Honda. We spoke to her recently about the work of the association, and the activities to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March.

When was Tiemar set up, Vicenta?
In 2003. Back then Playa Honda had far fewer facilities than it does now. There was no dining room at the primary school, no pediatrician, no secondary school, and we wanted to unite and demand these things, which are vital for women’s lives, and much more.
Originally, the association was named the Rural Women’s Association, and the name Tiemar comes from the words “Tierra” (land) and “Mar” (sea). More recently we’ve had younger members with a more feminist outlook and we now call ourselves a feminist association. It’s been interesting and rewarding to introduce these new ideas to older members in equality workshops and other initiatives.

How big is Tiemar?
We have more than 150 members, of all ages, sexes and backgrounds, and we’re a registered charity at a Canarian level, working with institutions and associations locally and all over the islands. We have a social worker, lawyer and a psychologist, plus two cultural workers, who promote artistic events and meetings. But it’s almost all done on a voluntary basis – this isn’t even my main job.

How are you funded?
We receive subsidies of 80% of our budget, but we need to raise the other 20% on our own, and that’s not always easy. There are times when we’ve fallen short and had to take tough decisions, and as grants are given on a six-month basis we often find ourselves living hand-to-mouth.

What are the main activities of the association?

We work with a variety of groups to tackle problems. On a local basis, for example, we’ve worked with the Playa Honda residents’ association, Viento Al Jable, and local schools to raise awareness of gender violence.

We hold meetings here at our centre in Playa Honda. For example, we have meetings called Agüita, which are spaces for sisterhood. This is mainly middle-aged and older women who come, drink tea, listen to serials and, above all, chat with each other and talk about their lives. Loneliness can be a big problem among widows, divorcees, and we offer a place of intimacy and support.

We’re deeply involved with several women’s groups throughout the islands, and work to change attitudes in schools, always with the aim of equality. We also create artistic events.

What sort of artistic events?
Right now we have an art installation just outside our office. Anyone can sit down and answer four questions about their impressions of Playa Honda and their own life, in any language. We also ask them to sing a favourite song. We’ll post the recordings online, and so far we’ve had some wonderful results.

This isn’t just a women’s group, though, is it?
No, we have male supporters, too. The aim of Tiemar has always been equality between men and women.

What’s your opinion of the recent rise of traditionalist groups such as Vox, who aim to repeal laws on domestic violence?
In Spain these ideas always pop up like mushrooms in the autumn. Seven years ago I warned that we were in danger of returning to the times of Franco, and now we see another attack on the laws we’ve fought for and which protect us. We can’t allow it, which is why we took to the streets to protest on the day that Vox took their seats in Andalusian’s government.

Are you from the island, Vicenta?
No, I’m from Madrid. I came to Lanzarote to marry my husband, raised a son and daughter here and always got involved in the community. I set up basketball teams, carnival groups and then decided to form Tiemar with friends. I love Lanzarote, but I still love Madrid, too. When I walk out of the airport there and smell the tarmac and the big city fumes, I feel like I’m home.

“If we stop,the world stops”
Womens groups throughout Spain have committed themselves to supporting a one-day “Womens’ Strike” on 8th March, aimed at highlighting the importance of women in the world. The strike will have four dimensions:

Care
Women will hang their aprons in windows to show that they’re leaving the daily, unpaid job of housework and childcare to the men. The aim is to highlight the vital importance of women in households, and promote discussion in the family environment.

Shopping
Activists are urging all women to spend one day without shopping. The aim is to show how important women are to the economy, as well as to protest against the idea that shopping is “women’s work”. There is also an environmental message following a recent United Nations study that showed how climate change affects women’s lives in the developing world.
Students
Schoolchildren throughout Spain will be holding strikes to protest against sexism and male violence. In many cases, these strikes are supported by teaching unions and parents’ groups.

Work
Spain’s major unions have agreed to support women’s right to strike for a given amount of hours on 8th March, although the decision will be up to the individual. The labour strike aims to protest against pay inequality and the “glass ceiling”.