“What gives me hope is that activism enables me to find people who care” – Interview with the scholar and Proceder/Ni Una Menos activist Claudia Prado from Colima, Mexico
We spoke to Claudia Prado, who is a professor, activist and leader of a human rights organization in Mexico. She reflects on the impact of the Ni Una Menos movement in Mexico, a movement which first arose in Argentina in response to the alarmingly high and growing number of gender-based violent incidents and specifically femicides. Claudia Prado describes the work and organization of the group Proceder (‘Proceed’) in the Mexican state of Colima, which she is a member of. She talks about the problems and challenges activists have faced in recent years – both on a legal and social level in one of the Mexican regions with the highest number of femicides. She stresses the importance of the exchange of ideas between different international groups of Ni Una Menos, who can work together to create a more just world in the future.
The interview was hold by Karla Yarazeth Contreras Meza on July 2019.
Karla: Ni Una Menos is a feminist movement that has become known worldwide. What are the main reasons why Ni Una Menos is campaigning in Mexico?
Claudia: Well, I work with an association called ‘Proceed’, which promotes human rights and which has been in existence for 18 years now. We have been members of various organizations working to promote human rights, gender equality and social inclusion. For about three years now our work has mainly focused on Ni Una Menos in Colima. We became activists within Ni Una Menos due to the increasing number of femicides in the state in recent years and due to the general increase in domestic and gender violence.
Karla: What do you think have been the most important achievements of the movement since its beginning?
Claudia: Well, it’s actually quite difficult, because what we’d like to say we have achieved is that women are no longer being murdered, right? And that has not happened. Since we began to organize, the number of femicides has been increasing year on year. What I can say is that there was a public warning about gender violence in the state of Colima, as a result of our and other groups‘ activism within a campaign led by the Comisión De Derechos Humanos del estado de Colima (the Human Rights Commission of Colima), the women center Centro de Apoyo a la Mujer Griselda Álvarez, A.C., and the Fundación Ius Género, A.C . This alert was specifically declared in Colima and does not apply in the whole country. On the other hand, several organizations that had not been working together before, came together and began to demand that issues raised by Ni Una Menos were reflected in state policy. We have organized marches and sit-ins. We organized a project called “‘Zapatos rojos” (“Red shoes”) an itinerant exhibition of object art, originally created by Elina Chuavet (2009/2017) to publicize the cases of femicides and violence experienced by women an exhibition of 68 red shoes, one pair for each woman murdered in the state in the 2018, and we took them to the ten municipalities in the state. Many of us are also active in the Marea Verde (Green Tide) movement. Our achievements are that we have had to learn to organize among ourselves, and within this organization we have looked for ways to involve civil society and to get a response from the authorities. We don’t always succeed, but we are persistent.
Karla: You mentioned an organization of different feminist groups in Colima. What feminist groups are involved and how are they organized?
Claudia: I can only answer for our organization. What we do above all is to work with middle school and high school students.
“We believe that if people receive a basic education from a young age, if education becomes accessible for everyone and people are getting taught about their rights, their democratic obligations, then it is much more likely that they will actually participate fully in democracy.“
There are a variety of organizations. For example there is a Justice Center for Women in Colimar, where they work with women who have suffered domestic violence. There is the group Calle Sin Acoso Colima (No More Street Harassment), also Rosas Rojas (Red Roses), Rebeldía Violeta (Violets), Marea Verde, the Observatory Against Femicide, Católicas por el derecho a decidir (Catholics for the right to decide) and there is also the Colectivo Inclusión (Collective of Inclusion), that brings together several strands of the LGBTQI community.
Karla: Do you believe that there are positions within the same movement that prevent its goals from being achieved? Is there agreement on any of the objectives of Ni Una Menos?
Claudia: Look, to begin with, one of the things that is said a lot is that women are their own worst enemies… and that is not true. We are working together and we have been working together for years. And if I respond to this question, it might suggest that the victim is to blame. And that is not right. What we should recognize is the work that we have been doing together, that in spite of ideological differences, religion, class and education, we continue to work together, right? We should talk more about how we deal with differences in order to continue collaborating, than about the differences themselves.
“Because if we only talk about differences, all we are doing is dividing the movement.“
We need to criticize the system that hasn’t responded sufficiently, a government that does not provide resources and that is disinterested. A government that owes us answers but doesn’t give any, a government that often sends back the budget for gender issues untouched.
Karla: How are the meetings organized? Is there an open conversation and can anyone participate?
Claudia: The easiest way for us to collaborate has been through social networks. We have created different groups on WhatsApp. There is a group specifically for abortion support and one from the LGBTI community. I am part of those WhatsApp groups and we often belong to more than one group. We try to meet in person, if necessary. One of the very interesting things about the activists in Colima is that we are all very busy and we all are doing it for free. So, we have our work, we have our families and apart from that, we are also taking time for the meetings, which is not easy to do.
Karla: And what do you think are the main obstacles preventing Ni Una Menos from achieving its goals in Mexico?
Claudia: Look, if you get no response to a request over and over again, that in itself is a response. The previous Mexican government in particular was very silent and unresponsive. They were not interested and there was no budget available to tackle the problem. That makes it a negligent government. Nevertheless, I think nowadays in Colima we have a government that is trying. For example, the state deputies of Colima began to recognize gender parity in the in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Now it is going to be demanded at all levels, from the municipal, the state to federal governments. Then there is also Marea Verde, a group raising the issue of abortion and there is also the question of gender identity.
“However, some Colima’ state deputies think that if they do one thing for women, they have solved everything.“
But it doesn’t work that way, because the problem is systemic. Many things and laws have to change, but they say: “We are giving women a lot! What I see is a government that still does not understand.
Karla: What is your vision for the future regarding the goals of the movement in Mexico?
“I have a lot of hope. If you’re an activist and you don’t have hope, you’re in deep trouble, because the external situation is so difficult.“
And I believe that one of the things that encourages us to continue our work is optimism, to believe that something can be achieved. We see activism as taking one step forward and two steps back and yet that has somehow allowed us to move forward. So, I would say it’s important not to stop taking little steps, to continue working, to continue being organized. Also, if you suffer from burnout, because activism is emotionally very tiring, all these different organizations will continue working. So, what gives me hope is that activism allows me to find people who care, people with hope, proactive people and hopefully little by little we will achieve a fairer world. That would be ideal, but well, that’s what we work for.
Karla: How do you imagine the ideal Mexican society that would allow for these goals and objectives to be achieved?
Claudia: Well, that’s difficult. I think what we need is education. We need state education. We need civility in our lives, we need families that have time to spend and to educate their children -not only time to work-. That means tackling poverty. Because when we talk about a world that is just, we have to talk about distributive justice as well as social justice, and that means there is a lot of work to be done. In Mexico the poorest, the most needy are the most likely to become invisible and forgotten, and we can’t continue doing that. I would like to stress the importance of education and how important it is to invest in humanity, that is what can move things forward.
 The Ministry of the Interior issued out the declaration “Alert of Gender Violence against Women” (AVGM) for five municipalities of the state of Colima. See: The National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women (Conavim), Segob declara la Alerta de Violencia de Género contra las Mujeres en cinco municipios del estado de Colima, June 20, 2017
The Interview with Claudia Prado was conducted on 5 July 2019 via Skype in Spanish and translated into English by Paula Fischer. The full version of this interview is available in English.
PROCEDER – Promotores de Derechos Humanos – Facebook page
Photos © Gustavo Vilchis