In Antímano, a peripheral neighborhood of Caracas, capital of Venezuela, a community found the formula to become a reference in civil self-construction: popular organization and feminism.
This was the key that made 54 families able to build a public housing building, literally, from scratch. Self-construction is when future residents build their own housing
Started in 2015, the Jorge Rodriguez Padre project is the result of a public policy by the then president, Hugo Chávez, to guarantee housing for families.
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“We started, first, by bringing together families with different needs. We are families who live on rent, lease or overcrowded houses. And due to this need, our commander Chávez came here with a suitcase full of dreams and told us to organize ourselves as a people”, explains Ircedia Boada, the construction site’s stock manager.
The Gran Misión Vivienda Venezuela popular housing project was then created after heavy rains hit Venezuela in 2010, leaving thousands of families homeless. Five years later, the community won the land, with the work actually beginning in 2017. Both the trade embargo imposed on Venezuela and the pandemic delayed the work, which should be completed in 2023.
The option to carry out a self-construction project was influenced by the community itself, as construction assistant Ursalina Guaramato says.
“The importance of all this is the feeling of belonging. Both we, adults, and also the children, who realize the effort we are making to have decent housing, this is the great importance”, says Guaramato.
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The financing comes from the Venezuelan government itself, which pays for the construction materials and also the daily allowance of the person responsible for leading the work every day.
Other than that, the work is voluntary and divided equally throughout the week. And at the weekend, there is a collective meeting between everyone involved in the work.
Ayari Rojas explains that Saturdays are when the whole team meets “and allows for integration”.
“This socialization of information with people who only work on Monday and then they can see people who work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… This is the big family as we call it. Dysfunctional family, but family.”
The manager emphasizes that one of the concerns of the project is the good coexistence of the group, which means combating all forms of discrimination.
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“In Venezuela we do not escape issues such as feminicide, gender violence, we do not escape this reality. But, at the moment, there is a lot of work being done about me dressing in a certain way is not a reason to attack me, or if there is gender diversity, it is also not a reason to be attacked or assaulted.”
Yugleidi Ruiz says that she arrived without knowing anything, and over the years she learned about “hydraulics, wall texture, I know exactly how much sand to cement, I learned about ceramic coating”, she explains.
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“Here we are 89% empowered women. And our motto is that whenever a woman moves forward, no man moves back. Women always reinvent themselves”, concludes Ruiz.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho