meet the young mexicans protesting gender-based violence

Last weekend, people joined together in Mexico City to raise their voices against sexual violence and discrimination. These issues have long been under-discussed in Mexico, and under-reported by the media. But, in the past few months, numerous sexual...

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Apr 29 2016, 5:11pm

Gala
Age: 19
What do you do? I'm studying history.
Why are you here today? I think the situation in the country is not good. We live in a very unsafe city with rampant impunity, we have a completely sexist culture and we don't realize it. I really hope this march makes a difference.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? Yes, like all women, on public transportation — I've had my ass grabbed more than once, and the way men look at you. The insults are directed specifically towards women, and we're not being respected for the way we dress.
What do you think society can do to address this issue? It's something that I find really hard to figure out. I think education is really important and we need to figure out what we can each do on an individual basis. 

Daniela
Age: 33
What do you do? I'm a stylist.
Why are you here today? I came to the march because I'm a human being and this is an important cause for me.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? I think I've suffered from that type of violence my entire life, everything from being grabbed to being treated as if I'm not good enough for whatever, based solely on the fact that I'm a woman. I suffered serious attacks in "safe" places with people I trusted and the worst part is that they don't even realize their actions are aggressive and sexist. That's the origin of the problem, they don't even know that what they're doing is wrong.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? I'm a feminist because I think we all deserve the same opportunities in life. For me, being a feminist means trying to be a decent human being.
What do you want to teach future generations? Don't be lazy, tear down this shitty system and build something better. 

Jovana Sanchez
Age: 16
What do you do? I'm a high school student.
Why are you here today? I saw #VivasNosQueremos on social media and decided to attend. My dad is a journalist and he decided to come and support me.
How can we bring attention to the issue of violence against women occurring in this country? I think that this violence and sexual aggression has always existed. It is visible, but people act like it's normal and that's what creates the problem. People believe that because we're women, they can abuse, kill, and assault us. The first time I suffered a sexual assault was when I was six years old, a 40-year-old man put his hand up my skirt. 

Carla Escobar
Age: 24
What do you do? I'm studying international relations.
Why are you here today? We came together to denounce and demand a stop to violence against women.
Are you part of an organization? Yes, within our department we are the Student Gender Commission. The political science department has had many incidents of gender-based violence, and I'm not just referring to female students being recorded in bathrooms and physical aggressions, but very symbolic violence within classrooms by peers and even professors. There are a few female professors that are participating in the struggle along with the Commission, but in general not many participate. In fact, complaints have been raised by female students — with sufficient evidence — that could get some professors fired, but it's generally very difficult to be heard.
What's your advice to someone who's been a victim of gender-based violence at school? It's complicated because there aren't any protocols in place specific to addressing gender-based violence, there aren't any mechanisms in place to file a complaint or to follow through. Certain acts aren't considered crimes. I think that the school system should do something about it, but also Mexican law. No law exists that punishes these sorts of crimes. Initiating these protocols and denouncing these issues needs to come from us.

Zaid Díaz
Age: 25
What do you do? I'm a fashion coordinator.
Why are you here today? I came to the march because femicide and violence against women are problems that I'm very concerned about. I think that in Mexico and Latin America there is still a belief that women are weaker and less than men. Therefore, men that are sexist take advantage of this and end up behaving aggressively. The worst part is they don't know they're in the wrong, they think it's normal. We have a long way to go, above all in the developing world, where many women themselves are misogynists. It's very important to educate people concerning feminism.
What's the best thing about being a human being in 2016? I've always felt ambiguity towards gender, I don't like to separate the two, but we live in a society that is always classifying us, so it's not possible to ignore gender. The best part of being a human being in 2016 is that little by little we're toppling these gender barriers, and women are more aware of their roles than they were a few years ago (roles which aren't defined) and that we can all achieve the same things. The best part of being a man is that these lessons have also gotten to men and that each day, slowly, little by little, there are fewer sexist men and we are in greater solidarity with women. We all want to have the same opportunities. 

Denisse
Age: 27
Why are you here today? Because I believe this is a problem that is normal to us now. I've been to other places in Latin America and the problem is even more acute, depending on certain regions. I can see we are very tired, and I'm very surprised that so many groups responded to the call to action. I also came to film. I think it's really important to document what's happening to us. Participating in the march but also taking action, documenting what we think and how things are developing.
What do you think the outcome of today's march will be? Well above all, to feel that we aren't alone, that millions of women feel the same way, that it's happened to all of us, and above all that we can count on each other. Being able to say it like it is, without mincing words, without having people judge you as crazy or hormonal, or any of that nonsense. It's really helping shine a light on what's going on. 

Dalía
Age: 25
What do you do? I'm a dancer and actress.
Why are you here today? I'm here to march in protest, for myself and for all women.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? Yes. I think that all, or most, women have suffered gender-based violence.
What do you think the outcome of today's march will be? This march is a historic moment that needed to happen eventually, and it motivates women to empower ourselves and fight, so that younger generations will grow up without all of the sexist prejudices that exist today.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes, but I think I need more information to name myself exactly that. But I do consider myself a woman that wants to fight for others and for myself. 

Andrea
Age: 18
What do you do? I'm a student at a technical school.
Why are you here today? I like to see women rise up and protest.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? Yes, at some point in school. The typical prejudices towards young girls, that we can't learn things like boys or that we can't perform as well as them. And this comes from teachers.
What do you think the outcome of today's march will be? That people will realize that the problem exists, that they will see what's happening and look into it. When you walk by and they give you a flyer, people become informed. They may even end up integrating themselves in the cause and breaking constructs. 

Sofía and José
Age: 24 and 18
Why are you here today?
Sofía: Mainly because we're doing a bachelor's in human rights. I've seen that human rights violations are elevated when it comes to women, but when you're a victim of these crimes you're doubly punished by society.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence?
Sofía: All the time when you go out. And even though it hasn't happened specifically to me, I've witnessed gender-based violence at work.
Do you think men can be feminists?
José: I think so, but I think a male feminist needs to step aside and let women speak.
What do you think Mexican society can do to address this issue?
Sofía: Mainly educating people, and when these sorts of things occur, speak out. 

Carla Prudencio
Age: 26
What do you do? I'm a telecommunications lawyer.
Why are you here? For several reasons. This march intends to bring visibility to one of the most important problems in the country. To adopt an analytical theory to help understand the problems that occur, I think what we need to analyze gender. I'm here to show solidarity and outrage.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? Yes, I think it's something that unifies all of us here, because in some way we have all suffered violence on the street. I think that it's something that affects us since we're little girls until we perish.
What do you think Mexican society can do to address this issue? I don't think there's one way, but right now we need to understand gender as a crisscrossing issue in order to make public policies, new forms of education, new types of entertainment… so I don't think there's one way, I think there are many. 

Alina Mendoza
Age: 26
What do you do? I'm a fashion designer and I have a clothing brand. I've been living in Mexico City for five years.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? Yes, all the time. And also before moving here.
Why are you here today? For that same reason. In some way we're all living immersed in violent actions all the time, in every form. I had to be here because I feel like this issue affects me. The problem affects all of us.
How does this march shine light on the issue? Because I think it's challenging to bring together a large gathering of people and we did it. This march is a space where we can really listen to the problems, and for people to show they care about what is happening.
What's your advice to someone who's been a victim of gender-based violence? They have to speak up. The majority of us have had something happen to us, but we never say anything and we don't inform each other about what's happened. That's the most important thing. It's hard, but it's really cool to have someone who empathizes and it's so much easier to overcome the problem when you share.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes, obviously, I'm a woman. 

Daniela
Age: 13
Why are you here today? I'm here to keep my sister company. I want to see what marches are like, to understand and be able to defend women's rights.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? At my school, there have been a lot of rumors about me and my friends, saying that we're too "bold." That bothers me, especially because it's a rumor started by guys.
What do you think the outcome of today's march will be? Bring all women together to protect our rights. 

Valeria Mendez
Age: 24
What do you do? I'm an actress.
Why are you here today? I'm fighting for peace.
Have you been a victim of gender-based violence? Yes. Visible and invisible violence, the obvious and the not obvious kind, I've been a victim of both.
What do you think the outcome of today's march will be? That it will be the beginning of a fight and a realization that we have a long way to go as a country.
What's your advice to someone who's been a victim of gender-based violence? That silence won't achieve anything, that you're not alone, and that we have to shout and say what we feel. If not, we'll never find the support we need.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? If feminism is defined as gender equality, then yes.

Andrea
Age: 25
What do you do? Right now I'm enjoying my pregnancy. I'm seven months along. Before, I worked in environmental education. I'm putting together a circle of women more involved in politics and I was interested in learning about the petitions they're working on. I love the march because it shines light on the invisible and I came to learn about the ideas and efforts and what's next from here.
How do you feel about gender-based violence in Mexico City? [It's] very present. A few months ago, I was a victim of obstetrician aggression because of an STD I had. They treated me like shit and they called me a slut in the hospital and I thought that didn't exist. Now, I'm being treated at a birthing centre and I now see that there are alternatives. Mexico City has these two sides. It's chaos, but at the same time it has so much of everything that we have options. What we have to do is find these alternatives.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? In fact, I'm redefining that. I used to practice a 40-year-old type of feminism and in many aspects, I didn't fit in there anymore. I think that giving yourself a label is limiting because you have to obey certain characteristics that don't fit you. I think any woman can consider themselves a feminist.

Fernanda
Age: 12
What do you do? I'm a student.
Why are you here today? I'm here today to support women who have been abused by a man, innocent women that don't have anything. I'm here with all of them, we're from the Mexican Justice Institute in solidarity with all women. Also, to confirm that women do like gifts and candy, but that we also like respect and having rights.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes. 

Credits


Photography María Fernanda Molins