Martes 12 de Marzo 2024

Victims, No more!; Change agents, the new role of Mexican migrant women

Increased political participation, recognition of their contribution, and working hand in hand with governments on a binational level are the goals of Migrant Force

Créditos: Courtesy Migrant Force
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Of the total mexican population residing in the United States of America, nearly half, 49%, are women. According to data from the Institute of Mexicans Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores in Spanish), this accounts for around 18 million mexican women.

Migration patterns have changed. The migration of men for labor and construction jobs left many women alone in Mexico, and many communities in the national territory were left with only female populations.

"Of course, women begin to migrate because we have to work. When you stop receiving funds from your husband, your brothers, your relatives, you have the need to migrate. If you leave only women in Mexico with all the burden, it's not that you want to migrate, it's an obvious necessity for survival because not only your security or your food depends on you, but your entire family depends on you," says Teresa Vivar, president of the Indigenous Peoples Commission of Migrant Force - a coordination platform for over 4,000 Mexican organizations.

Data from Migrant Force indicates that of mexican women in the United States (U.S.), nearly 11 million are of working age, and 4 out of 10 of them are heads of households. "mexican women abroad, migrant women, are aware that our role is much larger, that we have a responsibility to feed our children, support our families, in Mexico but also in the U.S., and take care of our communities on both sides of the border," says the compatriot from Oaxaca and leader of the mexican community in New Jersey, during a conversation with Heraldo USA on the occasion of International Women's Day.

But there's a part, she emphasizes, that increases the weight of the work they must do: dealing with a policy of oppression and disinterest from the United States, but also with programs formulated from Mexico that do not necessarily respond to the needs of Mexicans abroad.

Leyenda: Teresa Vivar  
Courtesy Migrant Force

In that sense, women in Migrant Force are actively participating with the aim of establishing serious, trans-sexennial conversations with both governments in the search for coordinated work and for the programs they have and offer to be more viable for the community.

"We have all the desire to remove the idea that because we are women we are victims of... no more, we are not victims, we want to be valued, recognized, admired, loved, protected... Mexico has to take care of us. We demand that governments realize that we exist and make great contributions. They call us migrants, but we continue to be hardworking Mexicans abroad and as such, we have rights and should have access to the benefits of any other worker."

Often seen only as labor, as checks or remittances, they cease to be considered as people, so what they seek is, "to be visible, to be recognized that we have rights and we deserve them for all the work we do, and we want to have the opportunity to be seen from another context: as agents of change, we value ourselves, we have dignity... I am not reaching out for you to give me, I am demanding that we work together so that we can move our community forward," that is the new narrative they seek to consolidate when talking about migrant mexican women, Teresa emphasizes.

Greater political participation and regularization of migratory status, urgent demands of Mexican women in the United States

While the major issues of access to health - particularly mental health -, education, the pursuit of equal pay compared to men, and the achievement of basic rights for female workers as well as addressing the causes of migrant expulsion from Mexico to the United States are fundamental objectives of the Women's Commission of Migrant Force, there are two other issues of great urgency due to the current situation.

The first is to achieve equity in women's political participation. Teresa migrated at the age of 18 and has been in the United States for over 30 years providing services in support of the mexican community abroad, but she asserts that despite many of the changes achieved in favor of Mexicans in the United States being proposed by women activists, political participation is not equal.

"Women are very strong-willed but they don't tell you how to participate, there's no path that helps you prepare as a possible representative of your community. Mexican women abroad don't want to be, we are not a chess piece," Vivar points out.

Courtesy Migrant Force

The second is to regularize the situation of migrant women workers who have been in the United States for decades without documents but paying taxes and contributing to the economy of that country. It is urgent, explains the activist, as they are facing tough "competition" from the new wave of migrants arriving from other countries with asylum status, which gives them other job opportunities.

"There is a coming of new migrants that are starting to cause this clash between us, between those of us who have been without any kind of migration adjustment for years and then those who are receiving asylum; we have women who are being displaced from their jobs where they have been for several years without documents and women who are coming with a status that allows them to work without having that problem of not having papers."

Finally, the founder and executive director of the organization Lazos América Unida, calls on mexican migrant women to reconsider what they are doing to break the patterns of oppression, to continue fighting to empower themselves and break the cycle of victimization. Migrant women, Teresa concluded, "are changing the narrative".