WISE WOMEN'S WORKSHOP
My name is ISABEL MARIA CASIMIRO.
was born in Mozambique, the 14th January 1955, in Nampula Province, in the Northeast
coast of Mozambique, in a very small village called Iapala, where my father
was a medical doctor of the railway station.
My parents came from Portugal in 1952 because of political and professional reasons. They were members of the Portuguese Communist Party, illegal, and were considered undesired persons in the "metropolis" and in most cases their destiny was one of the Portuguese colonies. In 1958 he participated in the election campaign for Humberto Delgado, against Salazar and was expelled from the State. This same year the family moved to Nampula, the capital of the province, where my father began working as a private medical doctor.
We are 5 children - 3 brothers and 2 sisters.
I owe my basic education to my parents that taught us, since we were children, principles of respect of human beings, respect for all differences regardless of colour, religion, ideology, sex, etc., principles of freedom and equality.
In the 60s, when FRELIMO - Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Mozambique Liberation Front) - was created and began the armed struggle in 1964, my parents decided to be linked to this movement in spite of the problems that existed those days, as it was considered a terrorist movement.
After the coup d'Etat in Portugal, 25th April 1974, we all participated in the Democrats Movement, an arm of FRELIMO in the country to prepare the conditions for independence that came the 25th June 1975.
Since then I'm a member of FRELIMO, Frelimo Party after 1977. I also joined OMM - Organização da Mulher Moçambicana (Mozambican Woman Organisation) - created by FRELIMO in 1973, during the armed struggle.
I was studying History at the Lourenço Marques University (Eduardo Mondlane University after 1975) since 1973 and I decided to interrupt my studies (as many others did because of lack of teachers) in August 1974 and came back to Nampula province, where I was born. Here I worked during one year for the FRELIMO Provincial Headquarters and then during one year I was teaching at the Secondary School, because most teachers of Portuguese nationality left the country after independence. In 1976 I was appointed Chancellor of the Secondary School in Nampula.
In 1977 I decided to go to Maputo to follow my studies in History. I worked in 1977-78 in the Mozambique National Archive, an institution linked to Eduardo Mondlane University and, in 1979 I was assistant of a teacher of Didactics History.
In 1979 I finished my first degree in History - Bacharelato - the only degree we could have those days, and I began working at the Centre of African Studies in 1980, when Aquino de Bragança was the Director and Ruth First the Deputy Director.
At the Centre and together with Aquino de Bragança and Jacques Depelchin (exiled from Zaire) and other researchers, we created the History Workshop Section where we began doing research on FRELIMO and the armed struggle, trying to understand what the Popular Power was in the reality of the Liberate Zones, created by FRELIMO, during the war for independence.
From 1982-83 I was appointed Deputy Director of the Centre, after Ruth First assassination, by apartheid regime, in one of the Centres' cabinets.
At the same time I was teaching General, African and Mozambican History to different classes, at Eduardo Mondlane University.
I also taught, together with other colleagues, Introduction to the Methodology of History, to students of a new Faculty called Faculty for ex-Freedom Fighters and Vanguard Workers, a very interesting experience we had and that died as many other good ones we had after independence. I also taught the same issue to members of the Frelimo Party School, during 3 years.
At the History Workshop Section I began doing research about the participation of women during the armed struggle in Mozambique, that was the content of my Licenciatura theses written in 1986 "Changing Gender Relations in Mozambique, 1960-74".
In 1987 I was invited to attend IDS Study Course 9 on Gender and Development led by Kate Young, with a grant from Ford Foundation. In 1988, also with the support of Ford Foundation we created the Núcleo de Estudos da Mulher (NEM - Woman's Studies Nucleus) with the aim of doing research on women and gender in Mozambique, thus visibilising the role of women in our society.
In 1988 I was invited together with 2 other law professionals to a meeting in Zimbabwe to organise what would be the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Project (WLSA) that began in 1990. Six countries joined this regional project at the beginning: Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I was appointed the Co-ordinator for Mozambique from 1990 until 1995, when I left to undertake Master studies. WLSA in Mozambique is a Research Project of the Centre of African Studies. During these 6 years of action-research we researched "Women and Maintenance Rights in Mozambique" (1990-92); "Women and Inheritance and Succession Rights in Mozambique" (1992-94) and began the 3rd phase on "Changing Families in Mozambique" (1995-97). I went on being a research associate to the WLSA Project in Mozambique and participated during the 4th phase on "Women and Justice Delivery Service in Mozambique - Domestic Violence" (1998-2000). After 1996 Malawi joined WLSA Project.
In 1990 we decided to change from Women's Studies Nucleus to Department of Women and Gender Studies - Departamento de Estudos da Mulher e Género -, as we understood it was time for us in Mozambique to use this new category of analysis, Gender, that we translated to Género.
In November 1992 I was appointed Director of the Centre of African Studies, during 3 years, until December 1995, because I had to begin my Master studies.
During the first 6 months of 1996 I was in Coimbra, Portugal, attending the Master and PHD Course on "National States Facing Globalisation Processes", led by Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Faculty of Economy. My Master's Thesis, only done in July 1999 is on "'Peace on our Land, but War at Home'. Feminism and Women Organisations in Mozambique", supervised by Professor Boaventura S. Santos.
It took me three years to finish my Master Thesis because from December 1994 to December 1999 I was a Member of Parliament, at our National Parliament for Frelimo Party, in the Maputo City Electoral Circle. From 1994-99 women represented 28% of the members of Parliament (42% from Frelimo and 12% from Renamo), and from 1999 national elections, there are 30% of women MP's, the first place in Africa.
can be imagined - and in spite of the fact that in our Parliament we are not
in full time as in others - it was very difficult for me to combine academic
and political life in this way. I know it was a very good experience for me,
as a member of Frelimo Party to be inside such institution, being a woman, but
at the same time, it was a very hard one, because of Party discipline, no internal
effective democracy to discuss key issues. But I survived!
At the end of 1997 I joined a group called Southern Cross (Crux) Constellation Trust, now a Research Association for the Development that is undertaking research about Nampula Province. The Netherlands are one of the major donors in Mozambique, mainly for Nampula province and wanted to have a group of independent academics to think and do research about Nampula to support them preparing a better use of the money available. Being a group of 20 researchers from Maputo and Nampula, we began doing research in 1998/99 and during 2000 and already have research findings we always discuss in Nampula with different actors - Government and NGO's, private sector, religious groups - and the Dutch Embassy in Mozambique.
Since 2000 I'm preparing my PHD on Changing Gender Relations within Family and Community in Nampula Province, as part of my involvement in the Nampula research group.
February 2000 I integrated Programa Mulher (Woman's Program) a project sponsored
by Italian Cooperation - Movimondo/Molisv, that began in 1998, working as advisor
together with Elisa Muianga the Co-ordinator. Programa Mulher undertook action-research
in Manhiça, a village 75 km outside Maputo about peasant associations,
organised a library on gender issues and trained people to work on it, gives
grants for students that do theirs thesis with a gender perspectives and organised
In 2000 we organised 2 Gender workshops: the first in August to discuss the research undertaken by Eduardo Mondlane University during the last 25 years on women or gender (we invited Sonea Correa from Brazil to facilitate) - based on an Inventory - and the second one in November to discuss with the government, NGO's and academics the links we establish in our work (we invited Signe Arnfred to facilitate).
I'm a member of different Women organisations, some of them we (the Department of Women and Gender Studies) helped to create:
OMM - Mozambican Woman Association (created in 1973, by FRELIMO);
- Forum Mulher - Coordenação para Mulher no Desenvolvimento (Woman's Forum - Coordination for Woman in Development), a network of various organisations, unions, religious, international, that work on gender in Mozambique, created in 1993;
- MULEIDE - Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (Woman, Law and Development in Mozambique), created in 1991, after WLSA was established in Mozambique;
- ACTIVA - Entrepeneur and Executive Women Association, created in 1989;
- WILDAF - Women, Law and Development for Africa, created in Harare, in 1990;
- AFARD/AWARD - African Women Association for Research and Development.
The Centre of African Studies was elected in 1993 for the Forum Mulher Board, as President, and I represented the Centre there from 1993-95, and from 1999-2000 as one of the Vice-Presidents.
The Centre is also a member of the Operative Group after Beijing - a governmental group to follow the Mozambican Beijing Plan of Action.
Members of the Centre are involved in the draft Family Law.
November I integrated a group, on behalf of the Centre of African Studies, that
is preparing a draft law against domestic violence. This group is part of the
World Woman March in Mozambique.