21 October 2010

Bibiana Aído: Minister of Equal Rights

For a town of just a few thousand people, Alcalá has made an impressive contribution to Spain´s recent political landscape. It is known as la cuña de socialismo andaluz - the cradle of Andalucian socialism. Alfonso Perales Pizarro, one of the leading lights in the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party) was born here, and when he died a few years ago President Zapatero himself came down for the funeral. Since the restoration of democracy in the late 1970s the PSOE has always controlled Alcalá´s town council, leading to complaints of of cliquism and clannishness by the opposition parties PP (Popular Party) and IU (United Left) alike, probably the only thing they agree on.

Bibiana Aído, Minister of Equal Rights in the Spanish government, is the latest and brightest star in this particular firmament. Her father is Francisco Aído, the first post-democracy mayor of Alcalá, and her mentors include Manuel Chaves, former head of the Junta de Andalucia and now Third Vice President of the National Government. She grew up and went to school here, and apparently she was discussing politics with her father and his friends at an age when most little girls were playing with dolls.

Bibiana's ascendancy, undoubtedly assisted by her family connections, has been meteoric.  In 1993, aged 16, she helped form the Alcalá branch of the Juventudes Socialistas (Young Socialists)  She picked up three degrees in business, management and economics, two at the Universidad de Cádiz and one at the University of Northumbria.    From 2003 to 2006 she worked as the Provincial Cultural Delegate for the Junta de Andalucía in Cádíz, and from 2006 to 2008 she was Director of the Andalusian Agency for the Advancement of Flamenco.  In 2008, aged 31, she became the youngest Minister to enter the Spanish Government.

Fighting for women's rights in a country famous for machismo (literally "male-ness"; stereotypically, male chauvinism) is a challenge which she has tackled with gusto.  A powerful and well-publicised campaign against domestic violence and encouraging women to denounce their aggressive partners has led to a steep rise in the number of convictions.  Also on her job description are enforcing the legislation on equal pay, an adult literacy programme for women in  rural communities, updating Spain's abortion laws, rehabilitation of ex-prostitutes, and measures against sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women and children.

Bibiana comes to Alcalá to visit her extended family regularly.  Last year I saw her give the opening speech at the town´s summer fair.  She came on stage just after the annual beauty contest, which I found somewhat ironic until I remembered that the protests against the Miss World contest took place seven years before before she was born and such events appear to be uncontroversial in this post-feminist world.

The people of Alcalá revealed mixed feelings about Bibiana in a recent newspaper article.  Many are appalled by her pro-abortion stance and cannot reconcile this with her claim to be a good Catholic.  Others believe that the denuncias against domestic violence have led to innocent men being punished.  Some regard her family as elitist, and put her success down to nepotism rather than ability.

Be that as it may, as an ageing feminist lefty I can´t help feeling proud to live in the home town of Spain´s first Socialist Minister of Equality.

STOP PRESS:  Minutes after posting this, I read the announcement of the closure of the Ministry of Equal Rights as part of the government's austerity measures.  Its role is being subsumed into the Ministry of Health and Social Policy, and Bibiana is being demoted to Secretary of State.  Shame on you, Zapatero!!!

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