Maria Manuela Aguiar
Profession/ Current priorities
Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments
© Jan 2001
Maria Manuela Aguiar
It wasn't a personal decision nor was it a voluntary one. So it can't be said that it was prompted by the best reason. The best reason is wanting to, getting involved, wanting to. I have always been very involved in civic issues since I was young … Portugal was a country with a very conservative and narrow mentality and so I was always very controversial, and within this opposition to the system I have always been interested in the issues of women's rights, the minorities, the injustices of the centralisation of power in Portugal … I was a criminal lawyer… throughout the whole fight against that which I call … I mean I have always been interested in what was happening on the fringes but I never wanted to follow a political career. I ended up being invited to join a government, by a prime minister who taught at Coimbra university, the university where I studied and where I worked as an assistant lecturer, so he knew me, it was through personal contacts, and he knew that my main speciality was Labour Law. I ended up accepting to be secretary of state for labour in 78/79; if I'm not wrong this was the IV Constitutional Government. It was a challenge at the time because there weren't many women in politics at the time. In some ways a woman who accepts a challenge opens the way for other women. On the other hand, in 78 it was still unusual in Europe for women to be in sectors which were traditionally male dominated and the Secretary of State for Labour was not a feminine sector and, at the time, it gave rise to a certain admiration. This was the added attraction which led me to accept. But essentially I said yes to the Prime Minister because he was Prof. Mota Pinto whom I greatly admired and to whom I couldn't say no.
2. Is there a tradition of political involvement/policy - making in your family?
There is, above all in my mother's family. I had several uncles … it was a divided family, monarchists and republicans, in fact the republicans were much more active and activist than the monarchists, several of them were locked up. My father's family was much more homogeneously monarchist and I don't know of anyone who was locked up for expressing opinions and organising demonstrations as my uncles from my mother's side, who were sentenced, did … Also in terms of civil society, for example, my maternal grandmother, her house was almost a civic club… she was a monarchist, very religious but there were constantly visitors, priests, who came through Gondomar and even the organisation of fund raising for various charitable works, the organisation of parties, so my grandmother was someone who was very active in the town and the Parish and I was able to participate in that atmosphere of great civic and religious involvement.
3. Have you had or do you have any person or political personality who has been a model or reference for you?
Yes. It was quite difficult in Portugal. The first Portuguese politician whose political leanings corresponded to mine, whose political style was, for me, the ideal way of going about politics, was Dr. Sá Carneiro when he appeared in 1979, accepting the first opening in the old regime; the first opening in the old regime came from a group of independents who also strongly contested it and which was called the Ala Liberal (The Liberal Wing), which was even a movement … a single party and which, for the first time, accepted the incorporation of a wing of independents, real independents; this wasn't a farce … they really were independents and many of them later played very important roles in Portuguese politics even at the time of democratisation. Dr. Sá Carneiro was someone who interested me because of his way of going about politics, firstly on account of his courage, because a great deal of courage is needed to try to open a regime from the inside … and I admired him for that, it was a risky bet … and it was, in some ways, a bet lost. I admired him just as much or more when he stepped down as when he started out. He knew when to stop, when he saw all his projects for the fight for freedom, civic freedom, freedom of expression, of organisation… lots of projects he put forward were all defeated and …in comparison with other dictatorships which I have seen over the years, the one which most refuted freedom of expression was the Portuguese one. Later I went to South Africa during Apartheid and I saw that, despite not being very democratic, it was a regime which had a free press. The Portuguese regime, and I suppose countries like Indonesia, or even more recently Zimbabwe, are countries where there are opposition newspapers, people who protest in the newspapers … or even in Luanda also. In Portugal people did not even have the opportunity of protesting because the newspapers were censured, it was a regime which was almost paranoid about freedom of expression. And therefore, all Dr. Sá Carneiro's projects were censured and he ended up throwing in the towel. The moment when he threw in the towel was, for me, the precise moment when the so-called "Primavera marcelista" (Marcelo Caetano's springtime) ended. So, in Portugal, he was my first reference; from the international point of view, of course I already had my heroes amongst which Pope John XXIII and President Kennedy of the United States.
4. Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics - e.g. in a citizens' rights, parents or other initiatives? What were important experiences you made?
Yes, in Coimbra. Once I stood for the Conselho de Repúblicas (the Council of Republics) in one election. At the time there was the Executive Board and the Conselho de Coimbra (Coimbra Council) in Coimbra and I stood for the Conselho de Coimbra. Normally, at the Academy, the left wing used to win overall or as a rule, and with regards to women, who were more conservative, the right wing used to win. As I was standing for the Conselho de Repúblicas I lost and I was left with the idea that it wasn't worth standing. In some respects, although it was improbable that the left should win that election, I always took personal responsibility for loosing and I thought it wasn't worth standing again because I was never going to win any election. It wasn't a very inspiring experience. Then I continued to participate even without being a candidate, but I wasn't at the centre of events.
An important thing for my accepting the invitation to enter politics was a previous experience which was also very positive from the point of view of self assertion or at least it made me gain confidence and this was having been an assistant lecturer at the Law Faculty, first at the Universidade Católica de Lisboa (the Lisbon Catholic University) and then at Coimbra University itself. Giving first year lectures, these are huge classes - 200 or 300 students - gives you a certain… for me it somewhat undid that idea that I wasn't capable of communicating with people; I had a good relationship with the students and with friends from all political backgrounds. Happily in Coimbra we have always had a good understanding beyond the political options and ideology of each person so I have always had a good understanding with the students whatever their political leanings and I took office on 24th April, on the eve of the Revolution, during a period of great unrest, and then I was in Coimbra for two years. These were certainly the most tumultuous years of academic life in recent times and I was always fine, without any sort of problem… and that gave me the much needed dose of self confidence to be able to accept such a position because otherwise I wouldn't have accepted at all. Because if my work had been what it was before I joined the Faculty, it was bureau work as I have always been a bureau assistant, if I had only ever done bureau work, I would never have accepted… so that was also a very important experience… Then, political life itself helped me, one thing helped another. In some respects my work as Secretary of State for Labour was also very bureau orientated.
The experience of that government was interesting, in some respects it was a government which turned a corner in Portugal, it was a government of confrontation. It was a time when power was often not in the hands of the political parties, there was the power of the trade unions, of the informal groups which sometimes ended up influencing the electorate more than the political organisations themselves; it was the era of voting practically or voting based on misgivings. People voted further left than the moderate left wing and that's why I say that the moderate left wing would never get anywhere in relation to a more extreme left wing. People always voted a little further left than where they stood, always voting for the next party on. They did not express themselves freely. In Portugal there was the idea that there was a government from a non socialist background. In democracy it is essential that there is alternation, for example between socialist and non socialist parties or governments, I think that's fundamental… At that time there hadn't been any government which hadn't at least incorporated the socialist party. I think that the Portuguese always voted with that conviction. That conviction was undone with Mota Pinto's government; he was a social democrat, a very democratic man, in no way can you consider him to be on the right of his party, on the contrary, I always considered him to be on the left of the PSD (Social Democratic Party) although he was a reformer, democratic, a real PSD member; but he was a man who took the line of governing the country despite the forces which interfere in politics without having the people's vote, in defence of the freedom of representation and the expression of popular representation which were a result of democratic elections. Therefore, it was very important for me to belong to this government and it was a government of independents, it was not a sectarian government, it was government with presidential appointment and perhaps, because of this, people were able to do what was necessary because none of us, starting with the prime minister, were defending a position or political post or making, I won't say, politically correct but at least, later, politically appropriate speeches in order to further our careers. Later, the government ordered elections, and there were elections and, for the first time, after Dr. Mota Pinto's government, the elections really were won at a national level by a non socialist majority. The first non socialist majority was that which came after that government. In fact José Miguel Judice once said that Mota Pinto's government was a kind of St. John the Baptist of the next government, a non socialist government. Dr. Mota Pinto showed that the country was governed despite the agitation of the streets and that permitted the Portuguese to vote for a government which was right of the socialist party. If we hadn't moved on, then democracy in the county wouldn't have been proved; what revealed the country's democracy was that in 83 that government lost and a socialist government came in and then in 85 a non socialist government won again and then in 95 the socialist party won and all this was fully and pacifically accepted by the people and in elections which were above all suspicion with excellent control systems and, in general terms, the way the campaign took place… in this respect, Portugal is an exemplary democracy. I think it was a very important experience because I attribute this role to this government and I played that role in Portuguese democracy. And in some ways the Ministry for Labour was very involved in this fight; this was the Ministry where I worked although mine was not a front line position, the minister for labour was much more visible than the secretary of state for labour. That's why it was a very important experience. Afterwards, in the next government, that is the government which was to be won by Dr. Sá Carneiro's and Dr. Freitas de Amaral's Aliança Democrática (Democratic Alliance)… with groups of independents to which Sousa Tavares, amongst others, belonged… the Aliança Democrática included parties from the right wing and parties with people who were left wing independents, but it situated itself in the centre… and then I was invited to be the Secretary of State for Emigration and the Portuguese Communities. It was an extremely important experience. At that time I joined the PSD because I supported Sá Carneiro and, therefore, belonged to the PSD, I have always considered myself to belong to the PSD although I'm not a militant. I have never joined a political party because I didn't want a political career. I never thought that my belonging to a political party was important for the political party because I also thought that it wasn't important for me because I didn't want a political career. I've always held the belief that belonging to a political party implies restricting one's integral freedom and it's true, as I was to verify; I paid that price; often within a political party one wants to affirm certain positions, in other words, to oppose and people always invoke the principles of party political solidarity and party political self help and it's often true that one needs to keep calm and avoid saying things one would like to say and write were one not a member of a political party. I thought that if I was to play a key role I had to pay that price and I had to join because I really belonged to that party, the party which was extending the invitation to me. Also if I didn't then I wouldn't have accepted such a position. In the same way as Dr. Mota Pinto's government was a government from the social democratic area. At the time I did not belong to the PSD. I belonged to the PPD (the Popular Democratic Party), I supported Sá Carneiro and, today, I continue to belong the PSD essentially because it was Dr. Sá Carneiro's party; this was the party of a man who thought in that way and played that role which I think was fundamental in Portuguese democracy, both before and after establishing the party, perhaps even more before establishing the party inasmuch as he showed us what a Portuguese social democracy could be or what the fight for democracy in Portugal should be in that political context. Then, my whole experience was interesting; although I had lived in Paris and studied there for two years, I did not know, like in fact the Portuguese in general don't know, what the lives of the Portuguese abroad were like and life itself, not only of the Portuguese, their individual life as citizens, their problems, but also the life of the Portuguese communities which, in many countries, are converted into real extensions, continuations of Portuguese civil society. They root themselves in institutions very similar to those we know in our country, which we know in a village, a town, associations of a social, cultural, sporting nature, musical groups, choral societies, theatres, football, in fact the Portuguese introduced cycling into Venezuela, ice hockey into South Africa, football into the USA and Canada, in cultural terms, music, dance, folk groups. It is through music, dance and theatre which the young take part in the associations, others can go there and talk, have a coffee, have lunch or dinner Portuguese style and, here, women have a fundamental role and one of my concerns was how would I be accepted, that is to say, would a Portuguese woman be accepted by communities which, as a rule, are more conservative than those which exist in the mother country? They're more conservative in the good sense too, in traditions, habits, there are even many songs, dances and expressions which are being lost in Portugal which continue to exist in the Communities abroad. I always used to ask myself how a woman would be received in these communities especially as these strong institutions which I'm talking about give a life of its own to the Portuguese Community because we can only talk of Community when the life of a Portuguese Community is institutionalised.
At any rate, this was a man's world, the world of institutions is a man's world, this was the world in which men formally appeared in the management and running of the households, and women worked backstage, so I didn't really know to what extent there would be acceptance and understanding from these groups of Portuguese but, I have to say, it was always excellent. There really are matriarchal traditions in Portugal and there is, on the part of Portuguese men, a huge capacity for adaptation to the new situation of dealing with a competent woman instead of a man and I think that being a woman ends up working the other way… in fact it's always like that. I think that being a woman in politics is never indifferent… it either helps or hinders. In my case it has always helped. I think it's because it's different. The fact of a woman never having held this position before and the fact of there being a woman helps to create a certain tie of greater affection between the people in the Community; I'm obviously not talking about 100% of the people, but the majority, and I have always found it easy to make friends, to create a friendly relationship, a relationship of good understanding.
5. Have there been any interruptions in the course of your party political career and what was behind them?
Between 78 and 80, yes. There was a government to which I did not belong; this was the Pintassilgo government, it didn't come from my political context. Then I came back in 80 and there were no interruptions. I left the Government and stood for the Assembleia da República, I campaigned a lot and overcame lots of fears… I think that often women don't dare take the risk because it is very important to have the experience which gives the self confidence to then do something else in another area, another field, and, in my case that happened. All these successive experiences I had… and they make a mark… I saw that in my party. Most of the women who take action… at a time when I was responsible for the mobilisation of women in the PSD. I noticed that a great many of the women who are politically active in the party are teachers. When I say that my experience helped me… I came to notice that it is normal that this kind of profession in which there is a need for communication and organisation and even, to a certain extent, for a command of operations, a class works like that, there's a certain amount of leading people; it's women teachers or active professionals who are involved in politics at a local level too. A great percentage… they aren't those women who would find it easier to be involved in politics, essentially housewives who, at a local level, if we had a different civic and democratic tradition, could more easily be involved in politics because they may have more time, at least after the children are grown up. But they aren't, possibly because they don't believe they have the qualities, although most certainly they all do, but they don't do it because they don't have the self confidence which is gained through a profession and, above all, through certain professions. So in my life… I used to have great difficulty in public speaking and speaking to the media, above all in speaking on television, I always thought that people who did this were very courageous, that a great deal of courage was needed because I was always frightened of making a mistake in saying a word or a sentence; of being aware that I had made a mistake in front of I don't know how many millions of people… for me it was very difficult to speak in pubic without notes and, above all, to speak on television because I didn't have notes. At school we don't learn to speak in public as is the case in some countries, although in some groups in which I was at ease I was a very talkative and opinionated person… even too much so. So, as Secretary of State for Emigration, the fact of being constantly obliged to contact people… in fact I started off by going to the USA before going to Brazil because I thought that the communities, rather, the meeting both with the Portuguese community and with foreign entities would be more informal than in Brazil. In Brazil everything was more solemn, more Portuguese. And really, at that time, twenty years ago, it wasn't, it was more… the organisations were more of an American kind with a presenter and a sequence in the speeches and interventions which were much more organised than that I was later to find in Brazil. So I had a great apprenticeship because during the day I had to make four or five spontaneous speeches and when I arrived in Brazil it was already easy for me.
One of the reasons I was chosen… life is a cycle… I know that one of the comments made in the political Commission when they invited me to become the vice president of the Assembleia da República was that I had been at the head of the Conselho das Comunidades Portuguesas, because they thought that the Conselho das Comunidades Portuguesas was a very difficult institution to lead, why?… The Conselho das Comunidades Portuguesas (CCP) is an institution for which I have a real passion because it an organ which represents the Portuguese abroad. I think the Portuguese abroad should participate on an equal footing in Portuguese politics, they should have their political rights, they should vote but I think they're Portuguese who are living under specific conditions and these particularities should be seen to. The CCP is an organ which specifically represents the Portuguese living abroad, not only as a non consultative organ… it is a very interesting organ because it aims to give a voice to the people who live in the Communities. The idea of having members of parliament for emigrants is something which I have also held over these last years… the CCP had its political turbulence and, as you know, the press never talks about things which run smoothly. The CCP has always run smoothly and made an excellent survey of the situations, the problems which affect the communities, it did magnificent work surveying problems which, apart from anything else, was extremely useful for that government and for the subsequent governments. It still is today if people want to see what is there in terms of recommendations; but it also had those acts of politicisation and, of course, the media primarily pick on that which goes badly. From the outside the CCP seemed to be a very turbulent, agitated, anti-governmental organisation when, in essence, the opposition was in the minority, and there you go, the CCP serves a certain kind of governor. If the person is there to say that everything is going well, the CCP is never any good to him because it always destroys that image of paradise. If the secretary of state also thinks he isn't in paradise, also thinks that not all is going well and wants to do and change some things, he needs it in most cases, above all in an issue which is absolutely inter-departmental. It is a very far reaching subject covering culture, education, justice, defence, social security, all these subjects in each of the ministries are pertinent to the Portuguese who are inside and outside the country. And, therefore, it isn't the secretary of state in most cases who can solve the problems, pressure must be applied to the other members of the Government. For me, because I wanted to solve the problems and was prepared to risk my head in the process, as I wanted to change things, the CCP was convenient for me because it was a way of pressurising other members of government. Therefore, for a secretary of state who is himself vindicative, the CCP is a precious instrument. For the secretary of state who wants to be politically correct, it is a very difficult and extremely uncomfortable organ to manage. It is perhaps for this reason that I was the only secretary of state who created the CCP and always worked with the council and always included the council as an essential instrument in political articulation, I don't believe that to date there has been another one, precisely because I understand, have a different style and another way of going about politics. But precisely because I liked the council and got on well with the council, despite all those appearances of agitation and confusion which came across on the outside, this was one of the reasons I was chosen for the Assembleia da República. But I have to say that I enjoyed that confusion in the Assembleia da República much less than the agitation of the Conselho which sometimes was something very superficial, here this isn't the case, here that agitation is part of a game and of the way of working and the way of going about politics in Portugal. So, disagreement here in the Assembleia da Repúbica is much more real than that which took place in the CCP. Well, from the Presidency of the CCP, I moved on to the vice presidency of the Assembleia da República and then I ended up doing something I really enjoy which is the Council of Europe. I represented Portugal, I was for some time the president of the Comissão das Migrações do Conselho da Europa (the Council of Europe's Commission for Migration) which was something which interested me enormously also because I had already presided over meetings of the Council of Europe's ministers from the Emigration area. I have sat on the Council of Europe since 91, mostly dealing with problems related to emigration, women, human rights, refugees, in the legal area the defence of human rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe's Assembly is also constituted by Commissions. One of the first which I chose was Migration and Refugees and it is here that I have been most constantly involved. I was president for three years which is the maximum time during which it is possible to preside over a commission. Now I'm also on the Commission for Equal Opportunities. Here in Portugal, I was for a long time president of the Comissão dos Direitos da Mulher (Parliamentary Commission for Women's Rights), at the time it was still called the Comissão da Condição Feminina (Commission for the Status of Women). That was at the time I was vice president of the Assembleia da República in 88/89 but then it disappeared because it worked too well, perhaps if it hadn't worked it wouldn't have been shut down so fast.
6. Did your objectives change during your political career?
No, they've never changed because I've always been a feminist, I've always defended women's equal rights, then when I got to know the Portuguese communities, the emigrants became my new cause also because there are great similarities between the discriminations they suffer and the difficulties they have in social improvement and integration… in some ways they're outsiders, like women are also outsiders so they're two things which are very alike. I moved from one cause to another like a duck takes to water. In essence it has always been this fight for causes. In the Council of Europe I also do exactly the same thing, just on different levels. For example, defence of the regions and regionalisms are also covered by the same thing…they're causes, they're people, they're always unjust situations. From another point of view I'm also involved in the fight for the environment, the anti-tobacco movement and animal rights. I think that a country's level of civilisation can also be seen by the way animals are treated and natures is respected.
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The PSD never institutionalised women's organisations. When I was co-ordinating these activities, I tried to set up an observatory for equality because I think it is very important to become aware of inequality because from the moment one becomes aware of inequality, it is politically incorrect to do nothing. I'm pro quotas under equal circumstances. The Party doesn't have… I was the only person in Parliament who voted for the socialist party's legislation in the last legislature. From this point of view I have a very different stance from the rest of my Party. I voted for the Law. I'm pro quotas under equal circumstances. In Portugal it is possible to practice the quota system because there are innumerable women who have the competence or experience, political or professional, which permit them to occupy political positions. Therefore, all the parties are closed or elitist, superficial structures in which women have not had a part. In my opinion this situation no longer depends on enlightened leaders because however much the leaders wish it, and normally it is the leaders who wish it, that is why there are more women in parliament than in the local councils and that is why more stand in Lisbon where, at the end of the day, the leaders have more power to influence, than in the constituencies which are further removed from the capital. That's why I'm in favour of quotas because I believe that, from the outset a certain balance is good, not because women are better than men or men better than women, there are differences: cultural differences of life experience, and that is good, it is good that they should bring them to politics and to other activities; it is best that no profession becomes too female dominated because, as we know, the female domination of any profession ends up devaluing it at least in relation to its professional and remunerative statute. For this very reason I defend a system of quotas which brings constant support, it isn't transitory. Like people from northern Europe, I defend a system of quotas which may be internalised, which does not need to be imposed by law because it is good that in every profession, especially in politics, there is an equal number of men and women. I'm pro northern European quotas. The northern European quota system is based on competence. I always talk about the northern European quotas and the eastern countries' quotas. In the east, in the old Soviet Union, quotas were badly applied because they basically served to make women play out a farce. I'm pro the Swedish regulation of the ombudsman for equality which I think is perfect, this is: preference of the profession to the under represented sex, therefore, the under represented sex has preference under equal conditions. If someone from the predominant sex in the profession is more competent, it is that person who should be appointed. The party has no regulation with regards to that aspect of equality.
2. What were your first offices or your first positions in the party? How long after joining the party did you take on these offices or positions? How did your candidature to a position come about?
I belonged to the Conselho Nacional (National Council) at a time when I was part of the opposition in 81, 82, 83; that was my first position in the party. Then I belonged to the Comissão Política (Political Commission) between 92 and 95 when I was responsible for the women's department. These were shadow positions, we were in opposition to the Government, we were minorities and I belonged to that group, I was part of that group's quotas, I ended up being elected from amongst people with whom I was working in the Party. At that time I was already mistress of my own destiny, I had already been secretary of state.
3. Did you have any mentors inside the party?
I can't say I have had a mentor. Dr. Sá Carneiro was the person with whom I identified politically but he wasn't very close to me; I only met Dr. Sá Carneiro on the day on which he invited me to join the Party and, in fact, it was with some trepidation because when one is going to meet one's own leader it isn't clear if one is going to like him or not. In fact I did like him. Now in the case of Dr. Mota Pinto it is very different. It was different in the case of Dr. Mota Pinto and my teachers at Coimbra, men who also belonged to the PPD at the beginning and with whom I have great affinities although they did not belong to the Sá Carneiro faction but that is a question of political style. But I joined the Party under my own steam. I had to learn for myself. Even more so in the field in which I went to work, Emigration. There was one person who helped me and that was José Gama who had been an emigrant and was the member of parliament for emigration… then the people with whom I worked in the bureaux helped me because it was a heavy responsibility signing papers and people have a very busy life so it is good to have a bureau with trustworthy, quality staff from the legal point of view, above all in this field. One has to know what one is doing and although I was qualified in Law, I often did not have the time to meditate on things.
4. Have you ever changed your party affiliation?
No. Not affiliation, nor political context. Because already when I was 16 or 17 and when I was fighting for the promotion of women and for the Swedish quota system, I was very influenced by Sweden and by Swedish feminism. I was a social democrat. At the time I was considered to be more left wing than I am today because things in Portugal have changed a great deal. Because anyone who, at the age of 17 or 18, considered going to Coimbra was thought to be left wing, some people even thought I was on the far left. In terms of human rights I go as far as possible. But I haven't changed.
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It has been very closely linked.
2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
I have a degree in Law.
3. What kind of jobs have you done?
I worked as an assistant lecturer at the Law Faculty, assistant Sociology lecturer at the Universidade Católica in 70/71. Then I joined the Serviço do Provedor da Justiça (The Ombudsman's Staff) and I have been an assistant to the Provedor da Justiça since 76. I also worked in several bureaux. Up until 78 I was an assistant lecturer at university and assistant to the Provedor da Justiça. As from 78 I have been in politics. I also taught for several years at Open University which was compatible with politics between 92 and 95. It was a course in policies and strategies for the Portuguese Communities.
4. Is it possible to articulate your professional life and your political career?
Politics completely absorbed my professional career.
5. In which areas do you see your special competencies?
Well, my specialist areas were in Labour Law, Work Accidents at the Serviço do Provedor de Justiça and the area of Social Security; now in the Council of Europe, Human Rights, emigrants, refugees.
6. What are your political priorities?
Essentially, Human Rights and within that category, the rights of the most miserable of all: the poor, the illegal, the forgotten. I have just presented several projects on the right to repatriation, the right to acquire nationality and the retention of Portuguese nationality. I'm also in favour of emigrants' participation both in the society where they're from and in the society where they live, therefore, full citizenship in both countries.
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It's a search for social justice, political equality, the fight for citizens' rights for the Portuguese, women, foreigners, it always ends up being the same thing. It's always a fight for the least protected. Not only this but I have also fought for understanding and acceptance of other forms of citizenship beyond that of the country, such as European citizenship, which I think I should defend but we continue to fight for citizenship and we should find many solutions for this fundamental idea such as the citizenship of Portuguese speaking people, an acceptance of equality between the political rights of the Brazilians; I have already presented several initiatives here at the Assembleia with a view to giving full reciprocity to the Brazilian Constitution which goes further than any other Constitution in the world in giving political rights to the Portuguese. I think we should reciprocate to the Brazilians, allowing them, as Brazilians, without having Portuguese nationality, to be ministers, members of parliament, allowing them to vote in all the elections including the Presidential elections and permitting them also to be judges in the Supreme Court, in other words, to occupy the most senior positions in Portugal independently of holding Brazilian nationality. Therefore, it is a way of moving towards universalism, towards an acceptance of others, of doing away with narrow nationalism. That is also one of my causes. I'm a strong defender of a Europe with national identities, a Europe of the nations, a Europe of the states sitting down at the same table as equals. What I don't accept is narrow nationalism… I accept the concept of national identity, cultural identity and political identity but I believe that nations are made by those who regulate them and I believe that foreigners should have the broadest citizenship rights within a country whether they belong to the community or not. Although, in accordance with specific cultural affinities, we may be able to go further in relation to certain cycles as is the case of Portuguese speaking peoples, I believe that Portuguese speaking citizens should be treated as Portuguese. I even dispute whether the condition of reciprocity should be imposed, whether these rights should be given on the condition of reciprocity or whether they should be given because we believe people ought to have them and, if we believe they deserve to have them, we shouldn't even demand reciprocity.
2. What strategies for Equal Opportunities do you believe have an impact in Portugal in promoting the presence of women in decision making?
Quotas, the observatory as an instrument of continuous control of the indexes of equality and inequality for greater awareness.
3. Do you think you have benefited from these strategies personally? How do you assess these strategies?
No, it's not by chance that only once my son was quite grown up did I decide to get involved in active political life. I also sometimes benefited from that support which women in my family have always had, the father or mother who always help - the grandparents.
4. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making? What is it that keeps women from committing themselves to politics?
They're more indirect, they're hidden issues. If a woman manages to be elected and be visible. These are always ambiguous questions. Under the guise of facility a pitfall is immediately dug into which they're going to fall. The political parties' structures, the machines, the political parties' network in which women have the greatest difficulty in rising to the top are the most responsible for discrimination in Portugal. When I say machines I mean the organisations at a local and district level but in terms of structures, central powers, the structures above the political parties, the leaderships, these are often more open, they're also not questioned, it isn't their role to be questioned and so they want to open up… Politics is a closed circle which may be opened with a quota system or other mechanisms of this kind but, on the other hand, perhaps it isn't of any great interest because perhaps people feel they aren't going to realise their dreams and their objectives in politics. On the other hand, there is this inquisition into the life of politicians which perhaps women resent more than men. It is an extremely aggressive world.
5. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
These are sufficiently self explanatory.
6. What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
In order to go into politics, none. To do my work, there were all sorts. In terms of the government, for example, it was the lack of understanding of the importance of the objectives for which I was fighting. Who fights for emigration, who fights for women… unfortunately, in Portugal women aren't yet a noble subject which occupies debates and the central concerns of Portuguese political life. It is much more natural at the level of Europe, the Council of Europe or any European institution to be concerned and to discuss the lack of women in politics than in Portugal. That has always been an obstacle for me, therefore, this doesn't have the power to see that objective realised. In relation to the Portuguese abroad, even less so, because everyone talks about them when they're here but it is a completely forgotten reality of Portuguese life. In Portugal it is the greatest of the forgotten causes, people who have contributed extraordinarily to the country not only in economic terms but also from the point of view of solidarity, of culture. Everything in Portugal is organised as if they didn't exist, only when they're present does anyone remember them. We don't remember we are a country, nor do we live as a country, which has a third of its population abroad.
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