BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (GPI)-- Some 80 women line up on a Monday afternoon outside the door of the Sessions Hall inside the city legislature of Buenos Aires. They all carry folders in their hands, hugging them to their chests like treasures.
They constantly open them, read them, look at each other and close them. At times, they talk in small groups. There are smiles, laughter, meetings and greetings, from hugs to a simple “hola.” Anything to suppress the anxiety of waiting.
Inside, the room is shaped like a semicircle and shares the same atmosphere as the corridor. People are in a hurry, running around to finish the preparations. They gesture to one another as they organize the final details of this special meeting – the first meeting of the city’s Parlamento de Mujeres. The doors open, and the women who had been waiting anxiously outside the door enter with their folders in hand and take their seats.
This is the inaugural session of the new Parlamento de Mujeres’ semiannual meetings, the first held on the International Day of Action for the Health of Women and the second planned for September. The group will present and hear proposals related to women’s issues and eventually advance the strongest ones to the next phase of the city’s legislative system.
In the center of the room sit the three members from the city Chamber of Deputies charged with presiding over the Parlamento de Mujeres.
“This initiative has to do with the voice of the women of the organizations being expressed, to go through these walls so that we can make way for new transformations,” says one of the deputies, María Elena Naddeo, president of the chamber's Comisión de Mujer, Infancia, Adolescencia y Juventud.
The women filling the room listen to Naddeo’s words attentively. As the representatives of 58 women's rights organizations, they act as symbolic legislators in the Parlamento de Mujeres. In addition to their folders, each woman has the name of the organization that she is representing in front of her and the number of the proposal that she will read during the session. The group aims to fortify local institutions working on women’s issues by taking their most important initiatives and transforming them into bills.
Mirta Coloca, representing Mujeres Como Vos, a nongovernmental organization that analyzes proposals that aim to improve women’s quality of life, can’t hide the excitement she feels to be present, occupying the spot of a legislator and having a voice in a legislative body for the first time.
“I feel like an important person!” she says.
The mission of the Parlamento de Mujeres is to smooth the path for women-centric bills to become law. Topics range from labor to gender identity rights. The parliament relies on citizen participation, inviting civil society organizations to present their bills and, in doing so, fostering communication between the society and the city legislature. Although many women in society are still unaware of the new parliament’s existence, those who are say they are grateful that their needs are being represented.
The idea for a women’s parliament began in 1998 in Mexico as informal sessions. In those years, Naddeo says she proposed the idea of special sessions for women to the Buenos Aires city legislature, but it didn’t take. Then in April 2011, it won the support necessary for city legislators to approve the formal creation of the Parlamento de Mujeres.
For the first session, various women’s rights organizations received invitations to participate. The parliament has the capacity for 60 organizations to participate, which will be nominated annually.