Julia E. Sweig – The Daily Beast, 04/24/2012
A 2010 photograph of a dozen women surrounding a newly inaugurated president might well depict the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. But these 60-somethings share more than the bonds of suffrage. They share a history of suffering and survival: they are the women whom the Brazilian military in the 1970s jailed and tortured at São Paulo’s Tiradentes prison along with their friend, comrade, and now president of the world’s sixth-largest economy, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff.
Standing at the center of the beaming group is a curly-haired woman in a purple silk blouse, a lifelong women’s-rights advocate and activist, once a member of Brazil’s Communist Party, and now the cabinet member and minister who leads President Rousseff’s Secretariat for Women’s Affairs: Eleonora Menicucci. Recently dean of her faculty at the University of São Paulo, she talks with the authority of a professor, has the expertise of a world-class political scientist (her research on women’s health is highly respected), and conveys the savvy of a political activist who’s seen it all. Menicucci is a lifelong feminist. She now runs a ministry in Brasília whose top priority she describes as an “obsession” of hers and President Rousseff’s: ending violence against women.
I met Minister Menicucci during her recent visit to Washington for a meeting of the Inter-American Commission of Women at the Organization of American States (OAS). That same week, the U.S. Congress had taken up reauthorization of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, a law once supported by bipartisan majorities but that today’s GOP leadership is angling to defund.