A Kansas Paraguay Project to Promote Democracy

In May 1993 Paraguay held its first free presidential election among civilian candidates since 1928.  People joined in non-partisan, non-governmental  groups and worked diligently to educate the public on voting and on their rights under the new constitution.

After the election several of the women’s groups were eager to have contact with the League of Women Voters in the U.S. The women presented their proposal to the Kansas-Paraguay Partners and were put in contact with the League of Women Voters of Kansas.

In 1995 a representative of the Kansas League journeyed to Paraguay to become acquainted with the women’s groups and to assess their strengths and perceived needs.  In 1997 five very capable Paraguayan women came to Kansas to spend two weeks hosted by five of the local Leagues.  Their purpose was to see government in action and the participation of women in governmental and non-governmental organizations. Their project on returning home was to carry out a series of surveys in five public markets in and around Asuncion to determine and prioritize the concerns of thousands of women who work in the markets.   Forums were held and the market women gained confidence in their ability to voice their grievances.  The final forum was held before the municipal elections of November 1996, and was attended by a League member from Kansas.  The candidates for mayor were invited and heard the women’s complaints.  The candidates then signed contracts to better conditions.  The Companeros Paraguay-Kansas documented the market women’s project with an excellent video, “Las Mujeres en los Mercados”

In 1997 the Companeros Paraguay-Kansas. Presented two well organized workshops focusing on how the League organizes political debates and how the League lobbies the legislators.  A League member from Kansas spoke on both issues.

Submitted by KPP member Mary Miller.

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