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Women environmental activists in Mexico face anti-activism abuse and gender violence, and such attacks only increase when they are Indigenous.
Marking Women's Day on March 8, Media Coordinator for Greenpeace Mexico Angelica Simon wrote an article Monday discussing the important role of women in social struggles, often ignored, and how they must fight in a society dominated by men.
“Being a woman shouldn't be a synonym for risk and unfortune, it is. Even more in specific contexts such as activism,” said Simon. Women environmental activists in Mexico usually face both abuse over their activism and gender violence.
On top of that being Indigenous makes it even more difficult, as Mexico has a big systematical discrimination problem against its Indigenous people.
According to Simon, women play a crucial role in the environmental struggles in Mexico, being one of the social sectors most-affected by the loss of natural resources and climate change. “A general ecological perspective should also be promoted within the gender struggle. Today more than ever we know there can't be social and environmental justice without equality.”
When talking about the important role of environmentalist women, Simon quotes Leydy Pech, a Mayan bee-keeper and community leader representing several communities in their struggle against genetically modified soy crops for years.
“As Mayans, we're fighting against the development model, against the loss of our jungle and against transgenic soy crops. But as Mayan women, we have to simultaneously fight against culture, a struggle for power and decision making spaces that have always been dominated by men,” Simon quotes Pech as saying.
The sowing of genetically modified soy for commercial purposes was allowed in the Yucatan Peninsula states in 2012. After a legal battle with Indigenous communities, the permission was partially revoked in 2015, but the invasive nature of genetically modified seeds and the insistance on using them have extended the soy presence to areas where it is forbidden.
“We've seen that by sowing this soy we've lost many medicinal herbs, trees vital to bees, animals and even archeological sites. The Mayan identity is hurt by these loses and we're being deprived of the possibility of transmiting this knowledge to our children,” Pech said and added that her community had filed a human rights complaint against transgenic soy in 2016.
Indigenous communities have documented the illegal use of these seeds since then, and accuse Monsanto of introducing the crops on purpose, but the company dubbed as the “most evil company in the world” has denied the allegations. The soy was banned again from the Yucatan Peninsula in 2017.
Pech says Mayan women are capable of standing with their heads up high in defense of their own lives and those of their women partners when all is threatened. “You gather your courage even if you see the monster is just getting bigger: first it was only the men in my community, then in the assemblies, then the authorities, the politicians.”
The National Network in Defense of Human Rights in Mexico reported 615 aggressions against women human rights defenders between 2012 and 2014, with an average of four per week.
Her community expelled political parties and police authorities in 2012 as they found out they were colluding with local illegal loggers and organized crime groups, taking justice into their own hands with their traditional government authorities.
Simon called on Mexican authorities to implement urgent measures and guarantee justice for every case of violence against women, including journalists and human rights and environment defenders.