Report: Women Who Dare – PEN Puerto Rico

by Elizabeth Starčević

On Sat Oct. 3, 2020 . PEN Puerto Rico held a zoom event called Mujeres que se atreven-Women Who Dare.

It was a report from several women journalists —three from Puerto Rico but also included Lucina Kathmann—and the Honduran  journalist, Dina Meza. PEN international Veronica Maza and Alicia Quinones had facilitated it with technical and organizational support.

The Puerto Rico PEN Center is headed by Sandra Santana; the panel was moderated by Sandra Rodriguez Cotto, other speakers were Daisy Sanchez, Marie Ramos Rosado, all Puerto Rican journalists.

They all spoke of the difficulties of defending freedom of expression as a journalist and as a woman journalist.

Women are diminished, ignored, paid less than men, given worse work schedules and less significant assignments.

They have been intimidated by federal agents, raped and are often victims of violence while doing their job in the field. 

 There is racial prejudice that intersects with gender prejudice. It is a topic that is not often discussed sufficiently. 

Often friends and family are not able or willing to be supportive in a climate of violence and the women are isolated.  

A significant issue is that of being vulnerable as a  working mother. Some have to flee with their children while others do not leave because they do not wish to upset the situation for their children. Several reported that their children have been a real support.  We heard that from Dina Meza about her sons and from  Lucina who talked about the daughter of Maria Elena Ferral and who spoke of her mother as a “guerrera”, a warrior.

 Although many of the newspapers in Puerto Rico are predominantly staffed by women, there are several laws under consideration that will impact them negatively.

Just as in the United States, the changes in the field to a digital medium have caused massive layoffs of journalists. The economic precariousness is extremely serious. The lack of recognition for radio journalists, particularly in indigenous areas, is significant.

Here is a word from each of the panelists:  

·       Marie Ramos “If things are not made PUBLIC nothing happens.”  Journalism has to keep issues in the public

·       Lucina Kathmann “Women are courageous.”

·       Daisy Sanchez “Women must fight back, but this is everyone’s fight”.

·       Sandra Rodriguez Cotto “Women have the capacity for resistance.”  “No me dejo comprar”. ” I do not sell out.”

This was a wonderful panel with very thoughtful, clear and strong participants.  They all said many more interesting and important things. The themes repeat each other and give us a picture of the situation for women journalists today.  So there is a lot to pay attention to.

I hope our PEN centers will continue this conversation.

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