Linked with Transparency International TI.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
María del Pilar Callizo López Moreira–“Pili”–comes from a very traditional family from Paraguay. She had a happy childhood, without any kind of deprivation or needs. This situation, however, did not prevent her from feeling the need to contribute to the construction of a better country, championing the cause of women and encouraging them to take on a leading role … (1000PeaceWomen).
She says: “When I was 14 years old, I acquired the consciousness that no power should snatch from human beings their most valuable possession: freedom”.
María del Pilar Callizo López Moreira – Paraguay
“The fact that something or somebody out there felt superior and was denying me my freedom and my rights helped me to see the reality. From that moment on, I knew that, as a woman, my duty was to do something to change that state of affairs. I also realized that to achieve my goal, I would have to take down many barriers. It was a challenge, and I began at home”, remembers María Del Pilar Callizo López Moreira, Pili.
“The first thing I did was study. In 1978, I got my degree in Law. Later on, I specialized in arbitration and mediation, in Buenos Aires, Argentina”. The first step had been taken. The next step was to put into practice her new knowledge and make use of her ideas and observations.
She comes from a solid family nucleus. She grew up in a happy environment, absorbing the values of her family. She transformed those values into a need to collaborate to the promotion of human rights. She also championed women’s rights and worked to promote greater transparency and efficiency in public life.
In 1986, along with a group of women, she founded, in Asunción, the capital of the country, “Mujeres por la Democracia” (Women for Democracy), one of the first organizations to fight for the improvement of the situation of women in Paraguayan society. She worked to examine and revise the judicial framework that maintained her fellow countrywomen in an inferior position, without even the most basic human rights. “These were the times of one of the cruelest and longest dictatorships in Latin America, and it was not easy to talk about gender, when we could not even speak of human rights”.
Pilar remembers that the meetings where strategies were outlined were clandestine: “Once, during the Paraguayan dictatorship, public demonstrations were forbidden and the people, who dared to participate, were victims of repression, imprisonment, torture and, in the majority of cases, went on to swell the lists of the ‘missing’ or murdered people. We knew that we were under observation. In our phone calls, we used nicknames and diminutives. Some documents about legal revisions were kept under conditions of extreme secrecy, because they were the fruit of constant discussions with other similar groups. Those times before democracy were especially hard”.
Always in fear and with constant indignation, in 1987, Pili took the risk and, with a group of no more than 12 companions, organized the “First National Meeting of Women”. They adopted the motto ‘For our equality in the Law’. “That was the first time I made my demands. I wrote a paper on women’s civil rights and presented it for the consideration of all the participants”.
This meeting rendered fruits: the organization Women for Democracy supported, for a few months, the foundation of the Coordination of Women of Paraguay (CMP), the head organization for all the groups working in the area of gender. “The feminist movement was becoming a headache for the dictatorship”.
With lawyers Mercedes Sandoval de Hempel and Berta Peroni, among others, they presented, in 1991, proposals for the partial reform of the Paraguayan Civil Law and, in 1992, a project for the total renewal of the National Constitution, so that it would include and recognize justice and equal rights for women.
“Human rights and women’s rights were absolutely the same to me. I wrote a text on that with the support of my companions and, after a while, it began to render results. More and more organizations asked for our opinions and support”.
In 1989, the dictatorship ended. The problems inherited from the fallen government multiplied. The concept of human rights was installed in society but, at the same time, corruption became a bigger problem.
“I was not alone and I was not afraid. Now, we were more than the usual little group of revolutionary feminists. We began to stretch out our hands to others like never before and began to articulate our demands and prepare for action. If the dictatorship had converted us into fighters for our cause, the period of transition forged us ahead with a common objective: the consolidation of democracy and the recognition of our rights.”
She was also a member of the foundation of the Association for the Promotion of Women. This organ gave her and the other members the possibility of reflecting on their own positions. They were the women who went into the jails and police stations, risking their lives acting as couriers between priests and politicians, bringing medicine to the sick, burying the assassinated, comforting each other.
In the meantime, governmental corruption continued to worry her. It was 1997. A new organization called International Transparency was the venue from which she, along with other people, tried to affect that problem: “We put forward proposals that would create transparency and accountability in public administration, encourage wider participation and fight against impunity”.
In 2002, she was elected president of the Paraguayan part of that organization. “From being a cog in a machine, I became an executive”. Her husband and her children warned her about the danger she would be facing by taking on that post. She knew that, but she also believed that she had the ability to bring about changes. “From that day on, my family has been my firmest supporter and the motor engine that drives my work”.
And there are results: the Paraguayan public power no longer hides behind a smoke curtain. The citizens give their opinions, debate, collaborate. However, Pili does not rest upon her laurels. Everyday there is a different battle, for instance, trying to halt the advance of corruption and its effects on society.
“My companions ask me, ‘Will our work be useful?’ I encourage them, answering that the fight against corruption must continue. Citizens must be aware of their rights and be able to exercise them”.
María del Pilar moves with the speed of a thousand revolutions per minute, but she has still time to dream: “I dream of a country that will renew its values and its ethical and democratic concepts; a country that will adopt a culture of solidarity. Only an enlightened independence, a rich social debate and a respect for diversity can generate a peaceful environment. I believe that society has this possibility in its hands and that this can be its best contribution to future generations”.
Without any doubt, this 50 year old lawyer, mother of four, housewife, daughter and sister, found in her own family a laboratory of democratic thoughts. She renounced to all kinds of profits, but has not remained without reward, because in life there are no favors that remain unpaid. And Pilar has received a lot of rewards: recognition, respect and other proofs of gratitude, from women and men that form the special light that surrounds her, a light that only the beautifully crazy ones have. (1000PeaceWomen).
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