Remembering Olga Bianchi – World-Minded Feminist, Pacifist and WILPF Leader
On Sunday 30 August 2015, Olga Bianchi, an indefatigable leader in the Chilean and Costa Rican feminist peace movement died of a series of heart attacks. Born on 11 December 1924 in Argentina, Olga lived her life between Chile and Costa Rica. In Chile she joined the resistance against the Pinochet dictatorship, using her film club to distribute illegal microfilms to spread human rights and pro-democracy messages. The dictatorship’s secret service discovered the network and she fled Chile with her children in tow in 1975, eventually settling in Costa Rica, thanks to the help of UNHCR.
A committed feminist Olga soon joined the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports in Costa Rica, and worked as a translator, professor and pacifist. She joined the Friends’ Peace Center (CAP) and WILPF (LIMPAL) Costa Rica in the early 1980s. She was also a board member of Amnesty International, Costa Rica and a founding member of the Committee for Human Rights (CODEHU).
Olga’s leadership in WILPF was long-lasting and impactful. She was twice International Vice-President of WILPF and also served as WILPF’s Representative to the UN in Geneva. She left an indelible print on the feminist peace movement in Costa Rica and in the Costa Rican section, where she mentored innumerable young women and budding feminists.
Aileen Bolanos Ulloa, a young Costa Rican WILPFer, said about Olga in Radio Feminista that “she fought all her life for the vindication of women and against dictatorships.” The Director of Radio Feminista, a fellow Chilean political exile, was quoted saying “Olga made of feminism an ideology for our daily lives, refusing to succumb to adversity. This is because she made joy a part of activism.”
Adilia Caravaca, former WILPF International President from WILPF Costa Rica, also added, “Olga’s standards of disciplined work for peace, with consistency along the years, and her ability to join in purpose with people from all kind of backgrounds were remarkable.”
FIRE (the Feminist International Radio Endeavors) organised a tribute to Olga in occasion of International Women’s Day in 2008, when many organisations and friends joined to celebrate her life and activism at FIRE’s office in Ciudad Colón. After her death, Olga’s family and WILPF Costa Rica organised a memorial at the Friends’ Peace Center, where friends and colleagues gathered for a celebration of the legacy of her tenacious work.
WILPFers around the world mourn the loss of this indefatigable feminist leader, who never lost her optimism, even in the most adverse of circumstances.