She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She has been a worker since her adolescence and she, herself, has experienced exploitation. A youth activist and promoter of human rights, Rosa María Herrera was born in Mexico, and now she works with and for women from poor Venezuelan communities: they support preventive health projects, create groups for developing ways of improving their quality of life and work for the right to a dignified life. She was born in 1945, in Zacatecas, Mexico. She was the second daughter of ten brothers and sisters. Her father was a farmer and her mother a seamstress. There was a strong Catholic influence which transmitted to her values of respect, responsibility and honesty. “I grew up in a strong family where there was a lot of respect. My parents set an example that was vital. My life took place in a healthy environment, in an extended family with the company of grand parents, uncles, aunts and cousins” … She says: “Each person has own rights and responsibilities, but we will be able to demand the first ones and assume the second ones only if we are aware of them”. (1000peacewomen 1/2).
Sorry, no downloadable photo found of Rosa María Herrera de Hernandez – Venezuela /Mexico
She works for Salud para Guayana (Health for Guayana), named on Nueva Prensa.com.
(1000peacewomen 2/2) … Rosa Maria Herrera de Hernandez had a basic education but the family resources were not enough for her to continue with her schooling. As she grew up she felt the need to look for a job. She wanted to help her parents to pay for the needs of herself and her sisters and brothers. Her father lost his job. “On October 7, 1962 when I was 16, I went with my sister, who was 14 years old to Mexico City. The day after we arrived, we both obtained work in a dress factory owned by a cousin. I learned the trade of seamstress and remained there until July, 1970”.
In 1965 she got to know the Young Working Catholics Organization (JOC) which she joined as an active member. “I have been a worker since my adolescence and have experienced exploitation for myself. I worked 10 hours each day, 56 hours per week, for a miserable salary, which was not enough even for basic needs. I lived with many other girls and boys who were experiencing the same reality and I realized then that I belonged to the working class”.
“In 1969 I went to Nicaragua for three months on an exchange trip with the JOC of that country, and during the trip I got to know El Salvador and Guatemala”. In 1970 she was elected coordinator of JOC at a national level and in August 1973 she became coordinator for Latin-America. “From then on I had the opportunity to travel to almost all the countries in Latin America to work with young people”.
As trade union leader Rosa Maria joined actions by militants in three factories, two of them where the majority were women. There was a great organisational effort, confrontations with groups and institutions and “ those who apparently defended the workers and had turned against them. During these processes the most important thing was money. Rights were not respected. It was not a fight for just a few days”. She participated in exchange trips to various African countries. In September 1975, she married a Venezuelan militant worker and moved to Venezuela the same year.
“I always say that JOC was my school and that experience made me take the decision to be committed to the cause for the rest of my life, no matter in what country. I developed and joined an infinite number of social actions and became aware of the realities of the world of the work. In every place the workers, especially the women, experienced conditions of exploitation and violation of their rights”.
From 1979 she began to work for women’s rights. She worked four years in the Círculos Femeninos Populares, (Feminine Popular Circles) eight years in the Comunidad Educativa (Community Education) and 18 in SAPAGUA, Salud para Guayana, (Health for Guayana). “When we founded this organisation we envisaged it as a team working for the development of integrated health services as part of a community experience.”.
In SAPAGUA she basically works with women. They take what they learn to their families. This is a fundamental fact of great importance given that in Venezuela more than 30% of women are heads of households.
“The work is of a promotional and preventitive nature in the area of health. The aim is to create groups who will participate in an organised form and will assume responsibility for their own health”
The activities are developed in San Félix and Ciudad Guayana in Bolívar State, places where the inhabitants live their lives in poverty and misery. “I am a member of the co-ordinating team of the organisation and for six years I have had the responsibility of bringing this experience to various settlements of peasant people in need”.
As a result of this process, nowadays there is a Community Health Centre and women who have been trained in various aspects of health care. In addition, groups of women have been formed to make artisan products from clay and natural materials.
In SAPAGUA there are three centres of ‘nutritional recovery’, a permanent programme of promotion and prevention, a basic training course in holistic health, alternative therapies and healthy eating, and support for enterprises of production.
Rosa María feels satisfaction in being part of this socially committed group of women who have taken responsibility for their own lives. But this awareness makes her recognize that the reality of the injustice they confront is wider, and it is not only in Venezuela. There must be a change in all of Latin America.
Things can change. The fact is that they have to change. Venezuela is living through a process that allows us to feel hope. I am enrolling in this process of change because I think that what was the future 15 or 20 years ago has turned out to be the present”.
Her hope does not prevent her seeing the ‘machismo’ that is endemic in the structure of society: “I always say that Ciudad Guayana is a city made for men and for a few professional women, but women in general, women of the popular classes haves no opportunities to work or types of employment open to them. Our duty is to continue in this search. Each person has rights and responsibilities, but only if we are aware of them will we be able to demand our rights and assume our responsibilities”. There is no other way to allow women to oppose injustice and find peace.
In our society the family burden is the woman’s burden. International organizations talk about ‘the feminisation of poverty’. Rosa is convinced that each day “the challenge is to work hard to remove from poverty its woman’s face. That is my commitment”. (1000peacewomen).
Beside being named as nobel peace nominee, there are no other items in the internet about our peacewomen Rosa María Herrera de Hernandez, Venezuela. But this means not, that her specific commitment should not be honnored on this blog.