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5 Significant Women-led Social Movements in Latin America in 2018

  • Women participate in a rally on the first anniversary of the

    Women participate in a rally on the first anniversary of the "panuelazo" for the legalization of abortion, in Buenos Aires on Feb. 19. | Photo: EFE

Published 8 March 2019

In 2018, five women social movements from Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, and El Salvador spearheaded the fight for equality and rights. 

Argentina: Green, Young, and Feminists

On Feb. 19, 2018, thousands of women put on a green scarf and hit the Argentine streets with a clear message: they wanted abortion legalized. The massive march was part of the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion that brought the matter up to the public arena. The climax of their struggle reached the Argentine Senate with a close vote that rejected a bill proposed for the legalization. However, this didn’t stop the organized women of Argentina. 

"The green scarf has become an international icon of feminism and collective efforts to achieve more just and egalitarian societies. The green tide's force made visible the need to guarantee acquired-rights, which continue to be violated day after day, with the complicity of different state powers and political leaders, as well as with the interference of fundamentalist sectors and ecclesiastical institutions in the design and implementation of public policies,” the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion said.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), about 500,000 abortions occur each year in Argentina, a country in which there are no official figures on clandestine abortions.

Mexico: Indigenous, women and proud

The Zapatista Movement since its beginning in 1994 has challenged traditional gender roles. With a proud sentiment for being Indigenous women they extended in 2018 a global invitation for the “First International Gathering of Politics, Art, Sport, and Culture for Women in Struggle”, hosted exclusively for “all rebellious women around the world” who “struggle against the patriarchal and chauvinist capitalist system”, as the invitation read. 

"I saw disdain, humiliation, mockery, violence, hits, deaths for being a woman, for being Indigenous, for being poor and now for being Zapatista," said Insurgent Erika during the opening ceremony, "and you should know it wasn't always a man who was exploiting me, robbing me, humiliating me, hitting me, despising me, killing me. It was also women who were doing that, and they still are."

About 5,000 women from 34 countries attended the event at the Zapatista territory, in the southeast of Mexico, from Mar. 8 to 11 to “gather with us, to speak to us and listen to us as the women we are”, the organizers added.

Marchers in the anti-Bolsonaro women's protests carry a huge #EleNao (#NotHim) banner Photo: Reuters

Brazil: #EleNao against sexism

To fight the candidacy of now-President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, in 2018 millions of women united under the hashtag and social media campaign #EleNao (#NotHim). The goal was to show the world Bolsonaro, who is known for making offensive, off-the-cuff remarks about women, Black people and members of the LGBT community.

"#EleNao is not just about politics — it is about morals," tweeted Deborah Secco, an actress with 3.4 million followers. As of Sept. 2018, the hashtag had been mentioned over 200,000 times on Instagram and tweeted over 152,000 times on Twitter, according to researchers at the FGV university.

Even though Bolsonaro won the presidency, this campaign crossed international borders, showing the world the far-right president’s position on women.

Thousands of women gathered on the November 2018 march, organized by VNQ platform in Ecuador. Photo: teleSUR

Ecuador: We want us alive

In Ecuador, there is a femicide every three days. The structural violence and sexism faced by Ecuadorean women in their daily lives sparked a national platform under the hashtag #VivasNosQueremos (We want us alive). On Nov. 24, 2018, thousands of these women took to the streets of Quito to demand respect for their reproductive rights and to end sexual violence and judicial impunity.

"We call for a strike in order to stop this violence against us, violence in all its forms: sexual, economic, patrimonial and all the violence that still weigh on us under the pretext that our lives are less important than everyone else's," Samanta Andrade spokeswoman for the Viva Nos Queremos said to teleSUR.

The movement is not lead by any particular group, rather it is made up mainly of women and LGBT people who share common challenges in labor, education, sex, gender, abortion, and impunity within the legal system on gender-based crimes.

Imelda Cortez with her supporters after knowing the court's decision in 2018. Photo: Reuters

El Salvador: Fighting criminalization of abortion and poor women

Imelda Cortez, a 21-year-old Salvadoran woman, has become a symbol for the fighting to the end of reproductive repression in Central America. Cortez was continuously raped by her step-father since she was 12, after becoming pregnant she gave birth unexpectedly on the toilet in her home. 

A medical report led her into custody, alleging a suspected homicide attempt in what was, in fact, an accidental birth. Her imprisonment for 18 months exemplified the criminalization of poor women in abortion cases in El Salvador. A national and internationally backed campaign pressured a December 2018 court decision to set her free. Her freedom sparked once again the feminist fight for reproduction rights, which was making significant legislative progress. 

However, the March 2018 elections, when the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) lost 25 percent of their seats in the Legislative Assembly to right-wing parties, meant a major setback for feminist organizations.

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