Ni Una Menos (Mexico City) – “Women and men have to raise their voices. We need a place where we can live without violence”

“Ni Una Menos is not an individual fight. Ni Una Menos is for each and every woman who is alive.” – Interview with Yesenia Zamudio from Mexico City

Ni Una Menos (Not One Less), is a movement that formed as a reaction against femicide and the ongoing violence women experienced for decades in Latin America. The City of Juárez in Mexico has become a symbol of this violence, not only due to the incredibly brutal series of murders taking the lives of hundreds of women, but also because of the apparently systemic nature of the continuing femicide. There are more than nine femicides per day and the number of infanticides and rapes of girls is increasing and neither the previous nor the current governments are acting with a gender perspective in investigations, or in preventive measures. We have interviewed Yesenia Zamudio, who is an activist in the movement Ni Una Menos in Mexico City. On January 24, 2019 her daughter María de Jesús Jaime Zamudio was a victim of femicide. The murder was committed by her teacher and a fellow student at the University, who first abused her and then pushed her from a balcony.

The Interview by Karla Yarazeth Cotreras Meza and Sascha Braun

Karla/Sascha: Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) is a feminist movement that is known worldwide. What are the main reasons why Ni Una Menos is fighting in Mexico?

Yesenia: We are seeking to eradicate all types of violence against women. I believe that here in Mexico we suffer too much violence in all forms. The mere fact of being a woman is dangerous here in Mexico and if you are a woman and if you are a professional, independent or dedicate yourself to anything, it bothers men. An independent, self-confident woman who makes decisions without consulting them bothers men a lot.

Karla/Sascha: What do you think were the greatest achievements since the beginning of Ni Una Menos in Mexico?

Yesenia: The most important thing has been that many of us women have been organizing ourselves. We began to raise awareness in every woman, irrespective of her economic situation. Earlier it was just a group of feminist women with a specific economic status, who could raise their voices and say what they think.We are saying that women of any age can fight for their rights, can demand their rights and express their opinions. I feel that the greatest achievement has been the collective that we have been able to create among many women from different states and different political interests, because sometimes politics and religion divide us. The greatest achievement is to break that paradigm.

Any woman – through social networks, through any means of communication – can learn about her rights and know what other women can do for her.

Because we are all vulnerable, we are all in danger. So if we don’t build networks among women and support each other, we will not be very successful in achieving our goals. If we fight collectively we can achieve more together.

Karla/Sascha: Which feminist groups are part of the movement and are there different positions within it?

Yesenia: They are different collectives, for example “Aquelarre violeta”, “Metoo México”, “Crianza feminista” and “cuidan mis amigas”, to mention some. I could not name all of them. There are also men who support our movement.

We need men to build networks and teach other men. We need them to build networks with other men and learn that men and women can work and live together respectfully.

Most of us in this movement are people who, apart from being feminists, have experienced patriarchal violence. In my case through femicide. I got involved with Ni Una Menos here in Mexico, because of my daughter’s murder. She was subjected to gender-based violence even before she was murdered. She suffered sexual harassment from a university teacher before her life was taken. After this incident I met many families in similar situations. Lately there have been many students joining the movement too. Maybe it is because they are the ones who have been mobilizing with us and who have been supporting us the most.

Karla/Sascha: Today, the Ni Una Menos movement exists in several countries. Is there cooperation and an exchange of ideas or strategies with other groups in Latin American countries? With which groups, why and how?

Yesenia: I am in contact with Ni una Menos Argentina, Mendoza (Province in Argentina), Spain and Chile. I communicate mostly with them through social media pages and social networks. Several years ago, here in Mexico a movement called Ni una Más was formed. It arose in Juarez [city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua], because of the assassinations that were happening there. But we have not yet seen results, because there are still more than nine assassinations every day…. So, I asked our Argentinian friends what they are doing in their country and what we could change here. They told me: “The movement is not only an Argentinian movement, it is a global movement, we want to expand into all countries”. So I told our friends, Ni Una Menos must be promoted to shine a light on the problems of our country. Ni Una Menos is not an individual fight. Ni Una Menos is for each and every woman who is alive. We all are suffering violence in all spheres of life. But it has been a little bit complicated too, as some people still do not understand. Traditions are hurting us and we can’t fight alone.

Karla/Sascha: Are there similar problems, and similar goals in Argentina and Mexico?

Yesenia: I feel that we may think we are different on a cultural level, but we are experiencing the same in terms of violence. For example, right now when we have almost achieved women’s rights, there is still the issue of decriminalization of abortion. I feel that the Argentinian campaign has encouraged us and that they turned us into rebels, although Mexico is a very conservative and Catholic country. So there are similarities, and the rights are the same, although our culture and traditions are different, as Argentina is a more liberal country than Mexico. We are very much encouraged by our Argentinian sisters.

Karla/Sascha: Who are the main opponents of the Ni Una Menos movement in Mexico? Why do you think they oppose it?

Yesenia: Politicians are our main opponents as they deny our rights. Right now we have a male president. We hope that at some point we will have a female president. But I also believe that there is already a change. Women are already taking political positions, like our governor in Mexico City.

I have also realized that the biggest fight is the one between the women themselves.

Why is this? Because here in Mexico there is a lot of machismo culture and many deep-rooted traditions. Nevertheless, there are some women who say what they think, who raise their voices, who demand their rights, who seek to occupy positions, not only in politics but also in the workplace. But when they want to work in jobs that were previously only for men, there are some women who criticize us. The women themselves are often prejudging us and building obstacles.

Karla/Sascha: What is your vision of the future and what are the goals of the movement?

Yesenia: The vision of the future, which should not be the very distant future, would be a situation in which women can have any job, not only in politics but for example in sport or any important decision-making position.

Women and men have to raise their voices. We need a place where we can live together without violence.

I think it’s a dream, but we can start acting now. And how? Well, liberating women from the home, sowing that seed of: “You can! Don’t be afraid!”. But the truth is that many people still believe that for a woman, being a housewife is obligatory, but I believe that there can also be ‘housemen’. Men washing dishes, taking care of their children. It is also their right to enjoy time with their children, as it is ours to be able to go to university or to do jobs usually carried out by men. If there could be more support from the government, from civil society or if we could start forming workshops where women are trained, we could achieve much more. Right now, we women are waking up and encouraging each other to speak out.

The interview was conducted in Spanish on July 3, 2019 via WhatsApp video call and translated into English. The full version of this interview is available in English.

Photos © Yesenia Zamudio