In the wake of severe economic crisis and widespread shortages, Venezuelan women united to protest the injustices of President Nicolàs Maduro’s administration in a country-wide march last month.
Sporting white shirts and raising white flowers, the marching women made a powerful statement against repression as part of the larger opposition movement that has held near-daily protests for over two months. The march, dubbed the “women’s march against oppression,” called for freedom from Maduro’s government. Holding signs that read “No more repression” and cheering for liberty, women wore garments like masks and goggles as protection against tear gas. Many shed their shirts and marched topless, and some even offered flowers to the soldiers and policewomen employed to deter them.
Opposition protesters have been calling for the upholding of delayed state elections and the rescheduling of the 2018 presidential elections following the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s dissolving of the National Assembly, which was controlled by the opposition. Under Maduro’s rule, a state of economic emergency was declared in Venezuela over two years ago, and extreme shortages of food, medicine and basic amenities have left Venezuelans struggling to survive.
While shortages have gravely affected the lives of all Venezuelan citizens, women are facing unique challenges. In 2015, the government set controlled prices on certain toiletries, including feminine hygiene products, causing their prices to skyrocket. Many women instead turn to smugglers, or bachaqueros, to obtain these products. Both feminine hygiene products and contraceptives are scarce, leaving women with not only the charge of waiting in long lines or scavenging for food for their families but also the hardship of procuring these necessities.
Despite the powerful ways in which the Venezuelan people have spoken out, one U.S. institution, Goldman Sachs, has taken action that helps support Maduro’s administration rather than ameliorate the worsening living conditions of its citizens. In late May, the bank purchased $2.8 billion worth of bonds from Petróleos de Venezuela, the country’s national oil company, for only thirty-one percent of that market price. Faced with harsh criticisms, Goldman still stood by its transaction, which the opposition accused of funneling money to finance Maduro’s regime. And although Goldman states that the deal was made through a broker and not directly with the government, its effects of bolstering the administration and causing outrage among Venezuelans persist.
The women’s march was an important step for women in Venezuela. It symbolizes the risks these women have taken to protest repression. They spoke out against the injustices they have faced to Maduro’s administration, the people of Venezuela and the world. This march was a call for global solidarity—an iteration of other women’s marches around the world. In light of the women’s march and the knowledge that both internal and foreign forces have contributed to the crisis in Venezuela, feminists and activists should stand in solidarity with the brave women who marched for their rights last month and who fight for their lives every day.
The march, which has gone largely unreported, deserves recognition and support as a significant battle for liberty—especially women’s liberty. Though the widespread denial of basic necessities puts their lives in danger, Venezuelan women are making big sound waves through their activism—now it’s up to the rest of the world to listen.