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Women in Mexico: an approach to their situation

by Paulina Santos (European Political and Governance Studies - Manuel Marín Promotion)

Mexico is a huge country. From North to South you will find different stories, traditions and landscapes that represent the different realities that people live in my country. In 2018, the population in Mexico was of 132.33 million (yes, we are a big country!) out of which 50.7% were women. Women in Mexico have a significant yet many times unrecognized role in the economy of the country, and even when women join the labour market, much of their work is done without economic contribution: in 2016, unpaid domestic work represented more than 4.6 billion Mexican pesos i.e. 23.2% of Mexican GDP.

Women in Mexico obtained the right to vote in 1953. There are currently 51 women in the Senate (for 77 men), and 214 women in Chamber of Deputies (for 286 men). However, to date, only seven women have been elected as state governors. As a Mexican woman, I had the privilege to study and to grow up in a family that encouraged me to make my own decisions and explore other countries. Nevertheless, that is not the case for many women in Mexico; gender inequalities are unfortunately still part of our society, and even though important progress has been made, there are still many things to be done.

One of the issues that need to be immediately addressed is violence against women. In many places and for many people in Mexico, violence is still normalized and those who suffer the most are women, children and minorities. Some of the factors related with the perpetuation of violence towards women are: female sexual objectification, women´s economic dependence to their partners and lack of support for women who have experienced violence. Likewise, culture plays an important role, and the patriarchal system in which many institutions are embedded makes many women reluctant to initiate judicial proceedings. This is also of significant importance in how many public servants address cases of violence against women: many of them still blame the victim and question whether women’s attitudes were responsible for provoking these episodes. The consequences of this are worrying: 40% of women have experienced psychological violence from their last or current partner. And this is just the preamble for worst scenarios. Sadly, Mexico is the country with the most femicides in Latin America: between 1985 and 2014, 47,000 women were killed in my country, and around 49 women are killed every week.

I feel very sad every time I talk about these kinds of topics regarding my country. I wish that people could know about Mexico for many of its positive aspects. However, recognizing this situation and making it visible is one of the first steps to create a change. Therefore, it is necessary promote the participation of civil society, governments and international organizations to create relevant public policies and an efficient judicial system to eliminate violence against women and its consequences.

I believe that Mexico has a great potential in this sense and I am sure that women will continue playing an important role in the development of my country. Many people know about Frida Kahlo, but she is not the only outstanding Mexican woman. As other examples I could quote Elsa Carrillo, prima ballerina in the Berlin Opera Ballet; Angeles Mastreta, a famous writer in Latin America; or Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). Last but not least, I will quote my own mother and the women from her generation as an example of women who are shaping the story of my country. They were the women fighting to remain in school, the generation who started having paid jobs while still taking full responsibility of the house chores. They were the generation that opened the door for us to have more rights and better conditions.

In conclusion, women in Mexico have faced many difficulties in order to get their rights, and there are still many things to work on, especially to ensure to protection of women and their right to a life free from violence. March 8th represents an opportunity to reflect and engage the international community with this cause. I encourage all students of the College of Europe - as future policy makers - to join this cause and help eradicate the violence against as well as improve conditions for women not only in Mexico, but in all parts of the world.



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