Working toward gender equality in San Miguel
By Jade Arroyo
“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” — Simone de Beauvoir
Equal rights for women is one of the cornerstones in building a society that claims to live with just laws, and the social context must include greater participation by women to strengthen institutions, build a balanced society and prevent conflicts and violence that arise from discrimination.
Professional success is sometimes more difficult to achieve for women than for men, owing to various constraints and stereotypes. The roles of women in Mexican society are usually well-defined, and the most important are always those of mother and wife. Also, the established customs and patriarchal systems that are hard to break are a restriction. However, when a woman makes a step forward, we all take it with her.
In San Miguel there are more than 84,000 women of all ages. The most important problems for them are human rights, an educational and economic lag, domestic violence, and violence while dating (which is an alarmingly common theme).
According to the Human Rights Report 2012, last year, of the 5,389 requests served, 2,415 were made by women.
Women’s health and IMAM
Rosana Patlán Rincón, head of Instituto Municipal de Allende para la Mujer (IMAM, Municipal Institute of Allende for Women), in an interview for Atención talked about IMAM’s work and its major efforts. They work mainly in the neighborhoods and rural communities. The institute’s work is mainly focused on education and prevention. They provide talks and counseling, promoting women’s mental health and sustainable development, and helping them secure a space to sell their products (such as handicrafts, soaps, etc.). In cases of physical or serious emotional violence, the IMAM gives legal assistance and channels the cases to the appropriate departments.
The IMAM has an area called “Education Equity,” which offers workshops and talks. It addresses the topics fostering of a culture of peace, eradicating violence and gender equity. It works closely with other associations, joining efforts especially with DIF and the local health center, which has a mobile unit for detection of cervical cancer, breast cancer prevention, Pap tests, and other services.
Patlán, when asked about the main problems of women, said: “In terms of work, there are usually no equal opportunities for women. They are victims not only of physical violence, but also emotional violence. The most frequent is so-called economic violence, in which women are not allowed to own property or to work to earn money.” Currently, they are planning a project to assess violence in indigenous communities. In San Miguel there are 26 indigenous communities, in which live more than 5,000 women. The IMAM is located in the administration building on Boulevard de la Conspiración, Salida a Querétaro. Their office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 am–4pm.
According to INEGI statistics, in 2011 in Guanajuato, one of five babies was born to a woman under 19. According to some studies, of the total number of women who have children before turning 17, only about 10 percent return to school, which means that the remaining 90 percent are trapped in poverty and marginalized, and therefore they cannot access adequately paying jobs.
Violence against women
In Mexico, 7 of 10 women suffer some form of violence (physical, emotional, economic, and so on). The most prevalent is psychological violence, which has roots in all other types.
For 32 years CASA A.C. has worked in the community, mainly in the areas of sexual and reproductive health. CASA’s work is holistic: the institution not only provides information through lectures and workshops but also attempts to promote changes in attitude that will lead to better lives for women. CASA’s philosophy is to teach solutions, helping people learn their own strengths and capabilities. CASA works to eradicate violence through comprehensive care (psychological, medical and legal assistance) and carries out prevention activities in communities (workshops at schools, church groups and informational campaigns).
Dulce Ortiz is a clinical psychologist; she directs the Violence Prevention area of CASA. When asked about the conditions that cause violence against women, she said: “We are known for being a very conservative state, and the women are suffering from greater discrimination and make up the most vulnerable sectors of the population. They always have the lowest-paid jobs, suffer more deprivation at all levels, and, of course, suffer a lot of violence, often quietly, because they do not consider it abuse. They think it is a custom, a way of life.” Poverty stands out as the biggest problem that women face, followed by lack of access to health services, lack of education—many adult women did not complete high school—and a lack of jobs and funding. “It is difficult to bring about change when basic needs are a priority, so people are eager to feed their children, not to learn,” concluded Ortiz.
Violence perpetrated against thousands of women every day can go unpunished, and justice still seems a very distant aspiration for those living in conditions of disadvantage caused by discrimination or violence.
High levels of femicide in the state
The murders of 24 women in Guanajuato this year have sparked outrage and alarm among the general population. In a presentation to the media in which no questions were allowed, Attorney General Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre never used the term “femicide,” even though this is a criminal offense in the Criminal Code of Guanajuato and as of December 2012 the courts had prosecuted five perpetrators of this crime.
In 2007, Mexico passed a law called “General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence,” which identifies psychological, physical, economic, sexual, and patrimonial violence, or the denial of property or inheritance. The law provides a framework for integrated federal, state, and local programs involving Mexican police, the courts, media, and schools and other sectors to recognize and fight violence against women, facilitating Mexico’s Interior Ministry’s ability to coordinate an emergency response after declaring a Gender Violence Alert (AVG).
If this initiative is accepted by the state authorities, the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence provides that the state must investigate killings and punish those responsible, provide medical, legal and psychological assistance to relatives or indirect victims, and accept responsibility for damage and reparations and work on prevention.