Without permission from any man

Ten women a day are murdered in Mexico, a rate that has tripled since 2007. Of those, 1,000 a year are acts of femicide; double the number five years ago. Thus far in 2020, 360 women have been murdered in this country.

Feminists are especially angry with Mexican President Obrador, who ran as a progressive in the last election. However, his government has slashed funding for day care and women’s shelters, and his response to femicide has alienated many of his former feminist supporters. He referred to plans for this week’s national women’s strike as a “dark forces” conspiracy and has blamed the femicide crisis on the “neoliberal” policies of previous governments.

After rallies and marches across the country on International Women’s Day, millions of Mexican women participated in a national strike on March 9th to demand that the government take all forms of violence against women seriously.

The idea came from the Brujas del Mar (Witches of the Sea), a women’s collective from Veracruz, who wanted:

“to make clear what things looked and felt like without women. The idea is that we don’t go to work, or buy anything, or move around, that we aren’t seen at all, because that is in fact what it seems like the system is trying to do: annihilate us women as its principal enemy.”

Ni unca mas

On March 1, in San Miguel de Allende, where my partner and I spend part of each winter, international women’s month was kicked off by a flashmob of about 50 women and girls in the main square. It was a dance that radiated both anger and power, ending when the dancers raised their arms, bearing the words “ni unca mas” in the air.

San Miguel is in the state of Guanajuato. With a population of more than nine million people, it is the sixth largest of Mexico’s 32 states, but has the highest murder rate of women in the country. Last year, 303 women in this state were murdered; between 50 and 60 of those murders were femicides.

On IWD, more than 300 of us walked through the city’s narrow cobblestone streets, shouting and chanting for an end to violence against women.

“Ni unca mas,” we shouted with our fists in the air. “Mujeres unidas jamas seran vencidas” echoed off the stone walls as we passed along the streets.

Then, we turned the final corner, where we were confronted by 303 pairs of women’s shoes, suspended on red ribbons down the side of a house, one pair of shoes for each of those women killed last year. It was a truly breath-stopping image; one that none of us will forget for a long time to come.

Despite our limited Spanish language skills, my friend and I were moved to tears more than once as women spoke through their rage and grief to call out the lack of government action to address violence against women.

The strike came to San Miguel. The bilingual library posted an advertisement supporting the strike and asking patrons to be patient as men did the work normally done by women.

Some shop windows declared that their businesses were closed for the day to support ending violence against women. People talked about the strike on the street. Some were against it, of course, but they were talking about it.

Prevention rather than regret

It’s not just Mexico that has a violence against women problem. CBC television and radio and Radio Canada have launched an in-depth examination of domestic violence across Canada. Citing the high and growing rate of violence in intimate partner relationships, the series hopes to answer the question:

“What would change the national conversation to one about preventing harm rather than regretting failure to protect?”

The Zapatista women’s IWD communique for this year says, in part:

“Sometimes from pain and rage arises not desperation or resignation, but organization.”

As Carolina Barralo, a member of the feminist collective Circulo Violeta, said of this year’s IWD activities:

“This is our feminist spring . . . we won’t stop until we get justice. This has only just begun.”

May Canadian women be inspired by our sisters in Mexico and may Canadian politicians be ready to listen and act: we, too, are fuelled by justified rage and we, too, have only just begun.

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