Paraguay: María del Pilar Callizo López Moreira

When I was 14 years old, I acquired the consciousness that no power should snatch from human beings their most valuable possession: freedom.

— María del Pilar Callizo López Moreira

María del Pilar Callizo López Moreira–“Pili”–comes from a very traditional family from Paraguay. She had a happy childhood, without any kind of deprivation or needs. This situation, however, did not prevent her from feeling the need to contribute to the construction of a better country, championing the cause of women and encouraging them to take on a leading role.

“When I was 14 years old, I wondered why the State radio station cut off the transmission of a beautiful poem by Elvio Romero (political oppositionist of the military regime of General Alfredo Stroessner) that I had recited with such emotion at a festival at school. It was then that I began to acquire the belief that the most valuable possession of humankind is freedom.” María del Pilar Callizo, Paraguayan, pinpoints for us the time when she began to search for ways to contribute towards the establishment of a constitutional State, with the participation of women. She is a lawyer specialized in arbitration and mediation. In 1986, she joined a group of women that founded, in Asunción, the capital of the country, one of the first organizations to fight for the improvement of the position of women in Paraguay. She examined the legal basis that made the role of women in her country almost invisible. “These were times of a cruel dictatorship and it was not easy to talk about gender, when we could not even speak about human rights.” The meetings were clandestine. “We knew that we were under continuous surveillance. In our phone calls, we used nicknames and diminutives. Some documents about legal revisions were kept under conditions of extreme secrecy. Those times before democracy were especially hard.” With the end of the dictatorship, in 1989, talking openly about human rights became more acceptable, but other evils arose, like corruption, for example. Pilar faced a new challenge: to encourage accountability and transparency in public administration, to encourage the participation of citizens and to promote actions to diminish impunity. “I dream of a renewed country with ethical and democratic values, with a culture of solidarity and respect for diversity,” she says.

Transparency International Paraguay