I have been finding it very difficult to write this last entry into to the Sister-to-Sister program blog. I do not know if it is because I feel like it is the closure of this amazing adventure or because when I look ahead on women’s rights, I see a long path of struggle against exclusion, discrimination, child marriage, contemporary slavery forms, sexual violence, trafficking, Female Genital Mutilation, and the list can go on and on.
I read recently an article on the internationalization of women’s issues, which quotes Michelle Bachelet’s words: “Women issues are world issues”. I think about it, and I think that women issues in Mexico are framed by impunity, discrimination and exclusion. For example, impunity reigns in cases of sexual violence committed by State agents for more than 6 years in Atenco, and more than 11 in the cases of Inés Fernández and Valentina Rosendo. These cases are not isolated. These occur because of the permissibility in our society for gender violence; because deep-rooted discrimination is a reality in Mexico, and it is reflected in our justice system; these situation is aggravated for poor women and it reflects in the lack of access to education, health service, or any basic services. The list of causes is definitely not exhaustive. When I think about it like that, I recognize that these women’s issues are really a shared reality in many parts of this world.
The truth is that we are all in this together.
However, I rest calm when I remember Aghssan resisting contemporary colonialism in her daily life, while learning from the Palestinian “grandmothers” – as we would named them at home – powerful women who have faced invasion and fought for their land with dignity, for more than sixty years. Or, when I see Walaa, advocating for women’s rights, as a means to liberate not just Sudanese women but a whole country from a repressive system. I also think of all those women at home, who demand their basic rights in a context of poverty, discrimination and “institutional military violence”. I think of Inés demanding the creation of a community center for indigenous women for them to take charge of their community issues. I think of Valentina, studying hard, not only to take care of her daughter but to give back to her community; both of them continuing with a restless struggle against military impunity in Mexico. I know they are not alone, they have the support of many organized women around the world who are demanding the same for all women: justice, equality, freedom, equal opportunities, peace. The Nobel Women’s Initiative’s family is among them.
I understand the path is long, but there are many courageous women who are already forging it for all of us. The only fair decision is to accompany them.
Maria Luisa was one of the first participants in the Nobel Women’s Initiative Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. Maria Luisa spent six weeks in Ottawa with our team and two other young women’s rights activists from Palestine and Sudan in 2012. All three returned to their home organizations and continue to work with us on short-term projects in support of women’s rights. These are her final reflections on participating in the program.