Strengthening and making Mexico’s working women’s political voices heard

Norma Iris Cacho Nino Gender, Her Series, Land rights, Participation and Leadership, Women's Economic Empowerment

The 13th AWID International Forum takes place this week. Jana introduces us to why Oxfam Mexico and the National Coordination of Human Rights Defenders of Women’s Labor Rights(Mexico) will be present.

Oxfam Mexico and the National Coordination of Human Rights Defenders of Women’s Labour Rights will be present at the 13th AWID International Forum. This group was created in 2013 and is accompanied by Oxfam Mexico’s partner organization Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC). It represents an outstanding effort in building the collective power of Mexican women workers from four sectors: domestic workers, maquila workers of the garment and automotive industry, agricultural day labourers and temporary migrant workers in the fishing industry.

The collective is constituted by current and former workers who form 18 grass roots organizations from different states. The segments represented in this group, are marked by a lack of legislation that assures a minimum of decent working conditions and are characterized by a feminization of labour which is supplied by women from highly marginalized socioeconomic conditions, frequently pushed into migration due to a lack of formal education and economic opportunities. The work that these women carry out is highly invisible and undervalued. This contributes to the vicious cycle that reproduces structural and economical violence, exacerbating the multiple inequality gaps that constitute the socioeconomic reality of these women workers.

It crucial to strengthen voices of indigenous workers whose insertion into paid labour is marked by human rights violations

Women’s labour force participation in Mexico

While women’s paid and un-paid labour is a motor of economic growth, in the current global context that is ruled by an economic model which is based on market fundamentalism, economic growth does not necessarily work in favour of women.

Mexico’s context as a middle income country trapped in a cycle of extreme inequality and political capture by the elites (Oxfam Mexico, 2015) showcases a political economy that devalues and exploits female labour in order to generate wealth for the ones who are already at the top. Whilst women have entered massively into paid labour and caught up with their male counterparts in terms of educational attainment, the tendency of carrying out their labour in precarious conditions is persisting:

Strengthening the voices of indigenous women

Mexico, with 15.7 million indigenous people from 68 different ethno-linguistic groups, has one of the most diverse indigenous populations in the LAC region. However, Oxfam Mexico’s research reveals that the ethnic and racial identity of a person is one of the most emblematic constituents of structural inequalities and outright discrimination. The indigenous population is by large the most disadvantaged group in terms of economic inequality (Oxfam Mexico, 2015: 33)

3 in 4 indigenous language speakers live in extreme poverty, whereas this applies to only 1 in 4 of the overall population. Indigenous language speaking day workers in the agricultural sector earn less than half of what non-indigenous speaking workers make a day.

Distant from being the sole determinants of unequal power relations, the categories of gender and ethnic identity are important social categories that constitute discrimination and privilege. Therefore it is of crucial importance, not only to hear, but to strengthen individual and collective voices of indigenous women workers whose insertion into paid labour is marked by human rights violations in a context of structural inequality and violence.

For the National Coordination of Human Rights Defenders of Women’s Labor Rights, the 13th AWID International Forum represents an essential stride in the process of triggering the collective and negotiation power of Mexican women workers. It is an opportunity to strengthen ties with the global women’s rights movements and a step towards deconstructing an economic model anchored on women’s backs – and rights.


Pubudini Wickramaratne

Pubudini Wickramaratne is the Land Rights Policy Lead at Oxfam International