“We need to rethink the way we refer to women”
Ximena Pardo Casaretto is President of the Uruguayan Red Cross, a society that once was started by a woman but soon after she left her seat, was taken over by men. Now that she is President she wonders what is the position of female in the organisation. And what conditions must be met to improve the position of women within the Movement?
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Why do we need to recover the trajectories of women in the Movement? Women have always been part of this organization, especially in Uruguay where it has been feminine from the beginning. The Uruguayan Red Cross was founded by a woman, Aurelia Romas de Segarra. However, after she left the Society has been led mostly by men. What place have we women occupied since then? What place do we want to occupy in the future?

“For so long, we women have been made invisible, but we no longer want to be”

– Ximena Pardo Casaretto, Uruguay

Today’s society forces us to review our behaviour and question our daily lives to move forward. Being more precise, we must look at both gender, race and social class as broad and structuring categories of human relations. For so long, we women have been made invisible, but we no longer want to be. That is why we are looking for new ways to make ourselves seen in the spaces that we already work, as well as try to be seen in spaces we haven’t been able to enter yet. We need to speak up and take place, both with our bodies and voices, problematize the stereotypes, inequalities and all forms of violence that we suffer just because we are women.

So now that the topic is on the radar we have a responsibility that forces us to go further and look inwards. What is not in the picture? What do we need to consider and talk about? In this dialogue we can reconstruct a new position for women in our Movement and the rest of the society. We can transform the roles we have given ourselves.

In 2005 my son Mateo was born and in 2007 my daughter Maite followed. During this time my activities for the Red Cross diminished. When I returned in 2010, I felt like I had to consider my role as a mother in the performance of my voluntary tasks. But now I wonder why? Do the parental roles affect the participation of people in the movement? And if so, does that apply to everyone – men and women?

”My role as a mother does not compete with my role as President”

– Ximena Pardo Casaretto, Uruguay

In my case, motherhood was not an obstacle. And it shouldn’t be. If we want to improve the position of women within the Movement, what condition must be met? The National Government Council, that I lead, has since its inception supported and incorporated our roles as mothers into our activities and meetings, generating spaces and allocating budgets, which supports us in our motherhood. This way my role as a mother does not compete with my role as President. This has been extended to all volunteers as well as staff.

In my journey as President, I have experienced feeling invisible and felt resistance of others to what I have to say and propose. Men refer to me differently than they do with my male colleagues. They refer to me as ‘young but brave’, ‘beautiful but brave’, while my male colleagues might just be brave. We need to rethink the way we refer to women. My age, hair colour or gender has nothing to do with my professional skills. I am concerned about the situation we are in now and spend a lot of time thinking about how we can change this.

I celebrate the time we live in now and the GLOW Red Movement. I celebrate all the women that are advancing in our organization. I celebrate the explicit intention that we consider protection, gender and inclusion in our work. But we should be encouraged to go for more. To deepen the spaces of exchange, discussion and problematization. To enable symbolic and material spaces to generate concrete equitable possibilities. To share and exchange successful experiences and critical knots. The road requires us to live up to it. So let’s go for it.

Ximena Pardo Casaretto

Uruguay, 1997

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Did you know...

Across all regions, between 45-57 per cent of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are women.

– IFRC Everyone Counts Report, 2019

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