To Matilde Hidalgo Navarro de Prócel and her fight
Unknown to most, especially in Europe, Doctor Matilde Hidalgo Navarro de Prócel (29/09/1889 – 20/02/1974) is an institution in herself for her struggle for the rights of women in Latin America, and especially in Ecuador. Medicine Doctor, poet and activist, Matilde Hidalgo was the first woman to exercise her right to vote in Ecuador (thus turning the smallest of the Andean countries into the first one in all Latin America to gain the vote for women), and the first one to be awarded a Doctorate degree in medicine.
It must not be easy nowadays to lead an institution named after her, to live up to her name and to honor her struggle. Indeed, the Foundation Casa Matilde [a domestic violence shelter for battered women] led by a group of enthusiastic activist women, committed to promoting real changes in favour of the struggle against gender violence has risen to the occasion. In a country where, according to the latest National Survey on Family Relationships and Gender Violence against women (2011), 60% of women over 15 suffer violence, its mission is a real balsam of Peru (if I may use this wordplay connected to its neighbouring country metaphorically).
In light of these shattering statistical figures, a forthright response to fight this constant assault on women could be expected. Unfortunately, the reality is far from that. In all Quito, there is only one safe house where battered women suffering from domestic violence could find a shelter, and that is the one managed by The Casa Matilde Women’s Shelter Foundation. It is a real oasis for women located in the south of Quito, in the midst of the usual hustle and bustle of city life of a dynamic city ceaselessly expanding for decades. A refuge for those fleeing from fear and aggression, but also a place where to find and recover strength, sisterhood, love and hope.
medicusmundi, our institution, has been actively collaborating with the Casa Matilde Foundation for six years now. During those years we’ve been promoting together, among other important actions:
Nowadays, when the struggle for women’s rights becomes an empty slogan in the mouth of conservative politicians who have little or no intention to change the situation of inequality and lack of general freedom, it is necessary to re-invent key figures and institutions such as Matilde Hidalgo and the foundation named after her. We must go back to the origins of the feminist movement to be able to understand that, only by promoting transformational changes leaving old structures of domination behind, will we be moving towards true equality, instead of contributing to thinning principles in the discourse of those who want to govern at the cost of freedom.
International Relations Co-ordinator
Translated from Spanish by Sílvia Aymerich