Mexico’s ‘Day Without Women’ Empties Out Workplaces, Schools

Andrea Navarro

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico City’s busy streets and subway were unusually, hauntingly empty Monday morning, and many schools, restaurants, shops and offices were only half full.

Millions of women in Mexico are taking part in the movement known as ‘A Day Without Us’, trending on-line as ‘#UnDíaSinNosotras,’ by boycotting school and work to call attention to soaring rates of violence against women. According to organizers, the boycott would show Mexico’s men what their lives would look like without women.

At the Neill Park kindergarten school in Mexico City’s Condesa neighborhood, only three male caretakers out of a staff of 22 were caring for the children. At Maque, a restaurant nearby, men doubled their shifts to cover for female co-workers. On the radio, host Martha Debayle was silent on her top-rated show, instead playing recordings of little boys talking about what women mean to them. And in print, newspaper columnist Viridiana Rios left her Monday column in Expansion Politica blank with only a brief paragraph that read, in part: “If I’m ever one of the 10 women killed on a daily basis in Mexico, this is how my column would look. Blank.”

Soaring Violence

In 2018, Mexico ranked 10th in Latin America in the number of femicides — the gender-based murder of women and girls by men — behind countries like El Salvador and Honduras, according to the most recent measurement by the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean. But in the past five years, the rate of femicides in Mexico has more than doubled, according to Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior, which reported that more than 1,000 women were murdered in 2019, up from 912 the prior year and 426 in 2015.

Activists have long condemned Mexico’s culture as demeaning and endangering to women. The latest outrage came after the mutilated body of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla was discovered on Feb. 9, and horrific photos of her corpse circulated on social media. A newspaper printed one on its front page under the headline “It Was Cupid’s Fault,” stirring more fury over cavalier attitudes toward femicides.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been criticized for his response to the latest high-profile cases, and protesters have called on him to guarantee the protection of women and justice for victims.

Businesses, AMLO Permit Boycott

Some of the country’s largest companies, including Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB as well as several banks said they would respect their female employees’ decision to participate in the boycott.

Business chambers Coparmex and CCE said they supported the boycott and called on other businesses to do the same. “We’ve failed as a society,” CCE said in a Feb. 24 statement. “Government and society need to guarantee women the right to live a dignified life that’s free of violence.”

Not all workplaces participated. For example, 80% of the nurses at Mexico City’s Sanatorio Durango health clinic are female, and director of human resources Lucila Castillo said it would have been impossible for the remaining 20% of male nurses to cover for them. Wearing purple, she said that although she supported the movement, she would have to show her support without missing work. “We can’t stop giving medical attention,” she said. “I can’t tell sick patients to come back tomorrow. But we support the cause.”

During his morning press conference on Monday, Lopez Obrador said the movement is largely legitimate and won’t be repressed by the government. But he also accused some factions of being conservatives disguised as feminists who are out to discredit him.

Sunday before the boycott was marked globally by International Women’s Day demonstrations. In Mexico, thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital and other cities chanting “not one more murder” to protest an increase in killings of women and rising gender violence.

Monday morning, that energy continued with the boycott, and some men noticed a difference. “We need to be more aware of our behavior,” said Aaron Sanchez, a chef at Maque. “We need to value women more and realize that this isn’t a war against men. It’s a war against bad people.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Navarro in Mexico City at anavarro30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Case at bcase4@bloomberg.net, Susan Warren, Shannon Sims

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