“A Day Without Women” protest forces femicide into social consciousness

On Monday March 9, women in Mexico participated in a 24-hour strike called, “The Day Without Women,” leaving schools, offices, public transportation, and social spaces half-empty all across the country. 

Following International Women’s Day on Sunday, the protest aimed to raise the social consciousness surrounding the astounding levels of violence against women in the country, which continues to grow rapidly with each passing year. The strike was also meant to bring attention to the often unvalued contributions women bring to society everyday. Women were encouraged to skip work (both at home and in the world), stay in their homes, and not go out shopping or run errands.

10 women are killed each day in Mexico. These murders, which target gender, are called femicides. According to the country’s attorney general, femicides have increased 137 percent within the last five years. In 2019, 1,010 femicides were reported in Mexico, though the actual amount is estimated to be more like 3,800 according to women’s rights groups. 

The impact of the women’s strike was palpable throughout the streets and in the workplace. Some people and places were supportive, recognizing the power of the protest.  The National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, which saw its classrooms stripped of its women students, said the emptiness created a “space for reflection to advance gender equality.” A bus driver, tweeting from an empty bus, wrote, “the city without women looks very sad.” 

Others, however, were less supportive, seeing the strike as an act of radical feminism or an opportunity for women employees to take the day off, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Women make up 40 percent of Mexico’s workforce. As a result, men on Monday were forced to take up the roles and duties often performed by women, such as cleaning (particularly housework and maid work), hotel work, and cooking. 

Many companies, as well as the Mexican government, supported the strike and offered paid leave for women who wished to participate. However, only time will tell if this support translates into real change, such as equal pay for women workers, enhanced police investigations, and adequate justice for the startling amount of women being killed in a country where male perpetrators usually go unpunished. 

“The Day Without Women” was inspired by similar strikes that have happened across the globe, like the 1975 protest in Iceland and the numerous rallies happening in response to the Trump Administration. Specifically, activists in Mexico have been stirred by the recent murders of a 25-year-old woman, who was “stabbed, skinned, and disemboweled,” and a seven-year-old girl, who was found mutilated and wrapped in a plastic bag. 

Since January, 267 women have been killed in Mexico, adding to the 2,833 women who were killed between January and September of 2019. Women across the country continue to fear for their safety daily. Ileana Lopez, who stayed home during the strike, tells NPR, “This is a very important cause, it’s not a game, not a vacation day. Women have to fight for their rights every day.” If real action doesn’t happen soon, women in Mexico will continue to disappear.

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