SEATTLE, Washington — Many women in Mexico will say “it is hard to be a woman.” This sentiment is one of the reasons why women in Mexico went on a national strike to protest gender violence and inequality on March 9, 2020. Women were absent from their jobs and public spaces as a reminder to the Mexican society and government that the lives of 10 women are needlessly taken away every day in Mexico, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal.
Lorena Wolffer, an activist for gender equality, told The New York Times that “it is no longer possible to continue living in a country where a woman can be murdered in a brutal way, without any consequence, and in a culture that allows for it to happen.”
Concanaco Servytur Mexico, a Mexican government agency that promotes commerce, services, and tourism in Mexico, estimated that the #ADayWithoutUs strike cost the Mexican economy around $1.37 billion.
Gender Inequality in Mexico, an Ongoing Problem
In the first half of 2019 alone, 1,199 Mexican women died by femicide, the intentional killing of girls or women on the account of their gender. Mexican authorities reported that such killings increased by 10% from the previous year.
However, sex-based hate crimes have long existed in Mexico’s society. In the past four years alone, gender violence in Mexico has increased by 97%, according to El Universal.
Gender violence and inequality stem from a concept deeply embedded in Mexico’s society: machismo. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, machismo is “a strong sense of masculine pride; an exaggerated masculinity.”
During the protests earlier this year, and inspired by the #MeToo movement, women reinforced the idea that a woman should not have to face violence for her gender. Women’s clothing, attitudes or activities are not justifications for men to act violent and inflict pain on women.
Along with this idea, women in Mexico were also protesting how femicides and acts of violence toward women go unnoticed by the Mexican government, allowing the “macho” culture to continue, or even reward it.
According to the United Nations, 98% of gender-related killings in the Latin American region are not prosecuted. It is imperative that the Mexican government step in and work to absolve women of injustice.
Gender in the Mexican Government
In September 2018, female presence in the government increased. In Congress, women represent 49% of legislators. Globally, Mexico ranks fourth in women’s representation. However, the gender inequality situation in Mexico needs more than representation; it needs laws to protect women.
According to Oxfam, a major nonprofit organization focused on alleviating global poverty, gender inequality in Mexico has improved in the last few years as the Supreme Court undertakes efforts to promote gender equality and women’s access to justice. Simplifying domestic violence-related divorces for women is one such improvement. Moreover, in the political stage constitutional policies have certified equal representation for women throughout Congress.
However, this is still not enough to ensure the safety of women in Mexico. Violence in Mexico occurs to “nearly 7 in every 10 women, in private or in public domains,” according to Oxfam.
Furthermore, women in the workforce in Mexico continue to be at a disadvantage. 9% percent of men under the age of 24 are not pursuing education and are joining the workforce, while this percentage skyrockets for women at a baffling 31%.
A report by McKinsey & Company claims that “senior-level women earn up to 22% less than their male counterparts.”
Progress Toward Gender Equality
Gender inequality and violence is a fight that Mexican women do not need to fight alone. Many NGOs support programs and funding that empowers women to achieve a better quality of life.
Oxfam creates specific projects to fight violence against women. They also co-invest with other organizations for women’s economic empowerment programs in Mexico City’s excluded areas. One such organization is the Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir (ILSB), which focuses on helping women fight gender inequalities.
For over 20 years, ILSB has been imparting high-quality seminars regarding gender, human rights and leadership. One of their programs called Indigenous Women contributes to the well-being and development of indigenous women, working to break any inequality gaps they may face.
Another program, named REDefine, is aimed at creating a network for young leaders by protecting “sexual and reproductive rights, access to legal and safe abortion and prevention of unwanted pregnancy for young people.” This program is currently active in 12 Mexican states, including Mexico City, Durango and Nayarit.
Género y Deca is another ILSB program that promotes access to “economic, social, cultural and environmental rights” to women and young people. A campaign from this group uses the hashtag #EmpleoJustoEnCasa, which aims at sensitizing the talk for housemaids and their employers toward fair work.
ILSB Encourages Women to Speak Up
ILSB also encourages women, young adolescents and indigenous women to use their voices in public policies to close the gender gap.
As part of another project, ILSB launched an online platform called “Time Out: Access to Safe Abortion in Cases of Rape,” where survivors of sexual violence can receive information about legal abortions in Mexico. The platform also gives essential information regarding health, legal and psychological services that public institutions should and must provide to women.
Although gender inequality is one of the biggest social and political issues in Mexico, a safe and equal future might be closer with the help of NGOs, women’s participation in government policies and social movements.
– Merlina San Nicolás Leyva
Photo: Wikimedia Commons