Recently at the AWID Forum 2016 we interviewed two of Oxfam Mexico’s partners to talk about the challenges and opportunities they face as women’s rights organisations in the country. We spoke to Norma Cacho from Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, A.C. (ProDESC) and Teresa Olvera from Asesoría, Capacitación y Asistencia en Salud, A.C. (ACASAC).
Oxfam: Tell us about your organisation and the challenges you face.
Teresa: We are a consortium of four organisations and focus on protecting Women’s Rights and the cultural/environmental/social and political rights of indigenous peoples. We are working with Oxfam Mexico specifically on Violence Against Women and Girls. This is done by various means including campaigning and advocacy work.
Our works takes place in a very complicated context, Mexico is increasingly deteriorated by a wave of extreme violence unleashed by organized crime, corruption and the deficit of rule of law, and we struggle to frame the issue of VAWG on the structural level, rather than the individual or smaller level.
We face many challenges, including structural barriers, capacity and resources. At the moment, the public funding for local NGOs and women’s rights movements is shrinking and at least two of our four organisations in the consortium are facing major resource issues.
Norma: We work to defend the economic, social and cultural rights of underrepresented workers and communities in Mexico. We achieve this goal through the integral defence of workers and communities that systemically contributes to the enforcement, justiciability and accountability of these rights. Ultimately, our strategies result in a higher quality of life and participation of workers and communities in their own development.
We do this through advocacy work and the strengthening of local communication strategies on the issues. We are beginning a collaboration with Oxfam Mexico to specifically defend and promote the economic and labour rights of women from highly invisible and marginalized sectors, including domestic labour, the maquiladora industry, as well as agricultural day labour and temporary migrant workers in the fishing industry in the United States.
We face many challenges, particularly because we work across different sectors with workers who form 18 grass roots organizations from different states
We face many challenges, particularly because we work across different sectors with 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. They are frequently pushed into migration due to a lack of formal education and economic opportunities. Being linked with care and social reproduction (and performed in a postcolonial context that is marked by labour relations which are embedded in a logic of racialized serfdom) the work that these women carry out is highly invisible and undervalued, contributing to the reproduction of the structural and economic violence, which in turn exacerbates the multiple inequality gaps that constitute the socioeconomic reality for these women workers.
It is very difficult to create a collective effort which is based on a shared recognition of the structural barriers, inequalities, discrimination and forms of violence the women workers face due to their gender, race, class and migrant status, as well as their collective identity as human rights defenders to push forward legislation which transforms the rights for women.
Oxfam: How has the AWID forum helped your organisation?
Norma: For me it’s a truly valuable experience to see so many feminist movements united in one space, this is very important to build on social movements that do not reproduce the violent power relations that our societies are marked by. The presence of activists who promote the rights of women and persons with disabilities shows that we need to keep on questioning and amplifying our horizon.
Teresa: I find this space encourages learning from other organisations and movements. It is also a key space for meeting new donors and partners.
Oxfam: For you what is the future for feminist movements?
Norma: From my experience and what I’ve seen at the Forum, it’s that there are so many different approaches to feminist movements. It will be challenging to create a degree of articulation and focussed thinking towards activism and the issues. We must keep working at the grassroots level, but also not forget the national influencing level, as well as cross and international movement building.
We must find a way to weave all these approaches together to have maximum impact.
Teresa: I agree with Norma. There is a lot of diversity which I think breaks into two main themes: dissident feminism and institutional feminism. The dissident being more radical, whilst the institutional focuses on systemic institutional change.
Intersectionality is another aspect which is showing how inequalities are playing out, and this is linked to financing. As we see more closing spaces, we don’t have the luxury of long term financing anymore.
For us, in the Mexican context, organised crime is forging more insecurity and colluding with the private and public sector, creating an incremented absence of the rule of law and human rights violations, affecting women and girls. We need to keep the energy going for all our movements as we face issues of democracy and shrinking.
Oxfam: What are the roles of the bigger NGOs and institutions in this changing feminist landscape?
Teresa: There is a role for the NGOs. They need to accompany our core strategies and help us to build strategic alliances, not just act as funders.
Norma: Alliances with the bigger NGOs help us to have international exposure, which helps us on the national influencing level. Furthermore, by working with international NGOs and institutions, we are exposed different perspectives and methods.
Oxfam: What are your hopes for the future?
Teresa: I am positive that a more equal world is possible, especially seeing all the young feminists at the AWID Forum. They show that our ideals and movements are not dying, but rather thriving.
Also, seeing the huge diversity amongst the attendees here, disabled, black, LGB, trans etc., gives me hope that our movements will reach all walks of people and crumble the unjust power structures that we are fighting against day by day.
Norma: Being here with nearly 2,000 feminists gives me the hope that out movements will continue to grow strong. I am very glad that Oxfam Mexico made it possible for me to be here.