Kansas Paraguay Partners Tribute to Mary Miller

Mary Miller and Charlie Stansifer

Mary Miller and Charlie Stansifer

Mary Miller passed on Wednesday April 8, 2015. Mary was active in the Kansas Paraguay Partnership for many years. One of her successful projects was with the Citizen Participation Committee. This project illustrates one of the strengths of Mary and long-term partnerships like Kansas Paraguay Partners. A significant change in the Paraguayan government presented an opportunity that KPP could successfully take advantage of because of the long-term relationship that had been developed over many years.

In the 1990s as Paraguay was developing democratic institutions after decades of dictatorships Mary Miller and Nan Wilson undertook a several year project in voter education with our Paraguayan partners at Comite Paraguay Kansas. Mary and Nan were active in the League of Women Voters and helped Paraguayans understand how a non-partisan and non-governmental organization could educate its citizens about democratic processes.

This was a several prong project that involved Mary traveling to Paraguay in 1993 to gauge interest in democratic elections. She found eagerness to move forward and get involved. With assistance from the Nation Association of Partners of the Americas (later Partners of the Americas) and USAID a youth conference was held in Asuncion on their roles in a democratic society.

A group of Paraguayan women from Mujers por la Democracia also traveled to Kansas to learn how the League of Women Voters engaged in voter education. While in Kansas they attended city commission meetings and participated in the League Day at the Kansas legislature.

Upon returning to Paraguay three women engaged women in Mercado Quatro that is one of the larger markets in Asuncion with primarily women venders. These women identified issues important to them that related to the municipal government. Once the issues were identified they held public forms around the city and asked candidates to address the issues. These forms attracted 100 to 150 people each. Mujers por la Democracia also used these events to educate people about voter registration and the voting process.

Mary reported on the progress of this project to the Department of State, the Advisory Committee for USAID and the staff of Senators Dole and Kassebaum.

Mary was also an adventurer.  Read more at http://obituaries.ljworld.com/obituaries/ljworld/obituary.aspx?n=mary-elizabeth-phillips-miller&pid=174613625

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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