Mexico Elects Its First Female President Amidst Growing Gender Violence

Mexico's 1st woman president sparks hope for equality. Prof. Rodriguez says it's a start, but deeper changes are needed. Equal pay, shared childcare, and a funded National Care System are crucial. Budgetary focus on women's issues is key, not just symbolic gestures.

Mexico Elects Its First Female President Amidst Growing Gender Violence
A woman breaks a glass ceiling, symbolizing a woman becoming President of Mexico.

On October 10, 1824, Guadalupe Victoria was proclaimed the first President of Mexico. Two centuries later, a historic shift will occur on October 1st, 2024, as a woman ascends to the highest office in the land. This momentous occasion is not just a reaffirmation to the progress made in gender equality but also a clarion call for a nation where women make up over 52% of the population. This milestone is shadowed by the stark reality of growing gender violence and daily femicides. What does this historic event signify for Mexico, and what can we expect from this unprecedented leadership?

Aurora Aguilar Rodríguez, the general director of the Center for Studies for the Achievement of Gender Equality (CELIG) of the Chamber of Deputies, provides an insightful perspective on the implications and expectations from this new leadership.

“The first President of Mexico will have to show us that she is with women. That if they attack one of them, they attack her,” asserts Aguilar Rodríguez. This statement underscores the urgent need for a leader who empathizes with the plight of women and takes concrete actions to address their issues. Central to this approach is the allocation of budgets in public policies aimed at substantive equality, such as the National Care System. Aguilar Rodríguez emphasizes, “What is not in the budget is rhetoric.” This highlights the necessity of financial commitment to turn promises into realities.

One of the anticipated shifts in the political landscape is the presence of women in traditionally male-dominated roles. Positions such as the Secretary of the Treasury and the director of Petróleos Mexicanos are pivotal. “We need more women in key positions considered ‘tough’; more men in portfolios and ‘soft’ areas,” Aguilar Rodríguez explains. This rebalancing act is not merely about gender parity but about leveraging diverse perspectives in roles that shape the nation's economic and industrial strategies.

Perhaps the most transformative vision presented by Aguilar Rodríguez is the integration of men into the private sphere, involving family care and domestic tasks. Historically, the feminist movement has fought for women’s inclusion in the public sphere of politics and work. However, this effort often neglected to address the need for men to share responsibilities at home. Aguilar Rodríguez posits that, “Both with equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities in both worlds,” would propel Mexico into the first world and significantly reduce violence. This shift would promote gender equality and nurture a more balanced and empathetic society.

In an interview with Cámara Magazine, Legislative Journalism, Aguilar Rodríguez elaborated on the significance of this landmark event. “June 2 marks a before and after in contemporary history. For the first time, we have a President of the Republic,” she states, capturing the gravity of this achievement. The relevance of this event lies in its challenge to centuries-old norms where women were confined to private roles and men to public ones. The patriarchal culture that has long dictated societal roles is being dismantled, making way for a more equitable future.

“For centuries, women were focused on private tasks and men on public tasks. Patriarchal culture: he is superior; she, an object for male use,” Aguilar Rodríguez remarks. Today, the narrative is changing. Women are asserting their equality in rights and responsibilities, both in the private and public spheres. This transformation is crucial as it allows women to bring their unique insights and experiences into the governance of the nation, not merely from a patriarchal perspective but from a holistic understanding of the country's realities.

As Mexico prepares to welcome its first female president, the challenges are as significant as the opportunities. The new leadership will need to address systemic issues of gender violence and inequality head-on. Public policies must be scrutinized and reformed to ensure they support the empowerment of women in all areas of society. Moreover, societal attitudes towards gender roles need continuous evolution.

She Who Pays the Bills, Runs the Country?

The question, however, is far more nuanced than simply replacing men with women. Rodríguez warns against a mere "masculinization" of politics, a transplanting of the same old, top-down, power-hungry tactics. Mexico craves a revolution, a paradigm shift where public policy reflects the reality of women's lives, not some idealized version dreamt up by men unfamiliar with the daily struggles of half the population.

History isn't kind. Decades of structural inequality have left women holding the short end of the stick. Imagine Sisyphus, forever pushing a boulder uphill, only this boulder represents the lack of access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities that have plagued women for generations. Rodríguez argues that toppling this boulder requires public policies with a "substantive equality" vision – policies that acknowledge the historical imbalance and actively work to dismantle it.

The good news? Women, statistically speaking, seem to be rocking the management game. Studies show a more cautious, risk-averse approach that translates to responsible credit use. Imagine translating this prudence to public finances! Rodríguez points to a stark contrast: women are the heads of household in nearly 12 million Mexican homes, yet public policy remains stubbornly focused elsewhere. It's time to trust women with the reins, not because of some arbitrary quota, but because, frankly, men haven't exactly steered the ship towards a utopia recently.

But hold on, isn't capability the key? Absolutely! Rodríguez doesn't advocate for blind tokenism. However, she exposes the hypocrisy – men haven't exactly been subjected to rigorous capability tests before assuming leadership roles. The truth is, patriarchal culture has long operated on a "good ol' boy" network, a self-perpetuating cycle of privilege that has little to do with actual merit.

The call to action is clear: invest in training women for leadership roles. Stop perpetuating the myth that men are inherently qualified by birthright. Give women the same opportunities men have had for centuries, and watch the landscape transform. This isn't about replacing one set of suits with another; it's about putting together a new leadership, one that reflects the rich diversity of Mexican society and tackles the challenges faced by all its citizens. As Rodríguez suggests, perhaps the woman who rocks the cradle can also rock the country.

Why Ignoring Women Costs Mexico More Than It Thinks

Rodríguez is asking the tough questions: what does it REALLY mean for women, who outnumber men by a landslide (over 52% of the population), to have equal footing? It's more than just having a seat at the table – it's about getting the resources they deserve.

Take the National Care System (SNC) for example. This system, enshrined in the Mexican Constitution (basically, a super important rulebook), would provide childcare, after-school programs, and support for moms re-entering the workforce. Sounds like a win-win, right? Well, some folks (mostly men, Rodríguez points out) are crying foul about the cost.

The unpaid work Mexican women do at home is already valued at a stupendous 26% of the country's GDP (that's fancy economics talk for everything Mexico produces). So, the SNC's measly 3% price tag is a drop in the bucket compared to the free labor women are already providing.

Think about it this way: if Mexican women had the same job opportunities as men, the country's economy would BOOM – growing by 5 to 7% every year! That's more money for everyone. But some just don't see the logic (or maybe they're scared of a good daycare center?).

The solution? Rodríguez has a two-pronged attack plan. First, get everyone on board with the SNC. Childcare? Check. After-school programs? Double check. Flexible work schedules? Triple check! This system would free up women to pursue careers, boosting the economy and giving everyone a much-needed break.

Second, education is key. We need to infuse every level of schooling, especially law schools, with a "Gender Perspective" (GP). Imagine lawyers who understand equal rights, and judges who make fair decisions based on merit, not some outdated ideas about gender roles. Right now, only a handful of universities even offer GP courses. That's like training doctors without teaching them about anatomy.

Can a Female President Usher in a Golden Era for Gender Equality?

Will having a woman as the President of Mexico usher in a golden era for public policies favoring women? Rodríguez’s response is a cautious "We wait." The harrowing statistics cast a shadow over this momentous occasion: in nine years, the death of women in Mexico has increased by nearly 60%. Machismo, with its toxic narrative of ownership and control over women's bodies, remains deeply entrenched. "If you leave me, I'll kill you. Mine or no one's," epitomizes the dangerous mindset that many men still harbor.

The urgency for the government to "open its eyes and establish new policies against violence" cannot be overstated. However, Rodríguez is quick to caution that the mere fact of a woman presiding over the nation does not automatically translate into improved living conditions for women. A progressive gender agenda that acknowledges and addresses the deep-seated inequalities is imperative.

History provides a mixed bag of lessons regarding women in power. Rodríguez reminds us that not all female politicians have championed women's rights effectively. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope: when women in power unite, significant progress can be made. The Plural Group of Substantive Equality of the Chamber of Deputies serves as a beacon of such collective action, having successfully promoted groundbreaking issues like the zero rate on menstrual hygiene products.

Mexico is grappling with a pervasive and insidious pandemic of gender violence against women and girls. What can the new President do to combat this scourge? Rodríguez's prescription is clear: education and more education. From a young age, children need to be taught to eschew traditional gender roles and stereotypes. The idea that "the mop is for the woman and the power is for the man" must be dismantled.

Rodríguez advocates for encouraging girls to pursue interests in economics, science, and technology, while fostering social awareness and sensitivity among boys. This holistic approach to education is not just about breaking down gender barriers; it is about cultivating a generation that values equality and respect.

The election of a female president is a significant milestone, but it is just the beginning. Rodríguez's reflections highlight the real work that lies ahead: establishing and implementing policies that address the root causes of gender inequality and violence. This requires a government that is not only aware of these issues but is also committed to taking bold and decisive actions to address them.

The new President will need to champion initiatives that support women's economic empowerment, ensure access to education and healthcare, and protect women from violence. These efforts must be backed by adequate funding and resources, as well as a robust legal framework that holds perpetrators of violence accountable.

70 Years of Women's Suffrage in Mexico

The Chamber of Deputies boasts a remarkable achievement in gender parity, with an equal number of men and women. However, this parity is not uniformly reflected across all committees. Rodríguez points out the discrepancies: the Finance Commission comprises 22 men and 19 women, the Budget Committee has 29 male and 22 female deputies, while the Vulnerable Groups Committee has a glaring imbalance with 28 male legislators and only two female legislators. On the other hand, the Wellbeing Committee sees 21 women and 14 men.

This division of labor into "hard" and "soft" topics reveals a persistent gender bias. Men dominate the more prestigious, traditionally "hard" areas such as finance and budgeting, while women are more prevalent in committees perceived as "soft," like vulnerable groups and wellbeing. "For them the 'hard' topics, for them, the 'soft' ones," Rodríguez observes, highlighting the entrenched stereotypes that still influence political roles.

While significant strides have been made in incorporating women into the public sphere, Rodríguez advocates for a truly revolutionary approach: integrating men into the private sphere. "The most revolutionary thing is that both sexes understand their integral role. That both are in the public and in the private," she emphasizes. This dual integration is essential for achieving genuine equality.

Promoting equality in education and preventing and addressing violence are foundational steps. Rodríguez stresses the urgency of public policies that support full-time schools and childcare centers, enabling women to join the labor market with the assurance that their children are well cared for. "Public policies regarding full-time schools and child care centers are urgently needed," she insists. Moreover, encouraging the inclusion of men in private matters, such as domestic responsibilities and caregiving, is critical for balancing gender roles.

At the heart of this transformation is education. Rodríguez underscores the importance of fostering an educational system that promotes equality from an early age. "Basic, promote education in equality," she asserts. This involves dismantling traditional gender roles and stereotypes that dictate "The mop is for the woman and the power is for the man." By instilling values of equality and respect in children, a new generation can grow up unencumbered by the biases of the past.

Educational reforms should also extend to universities, particularly in fields such as law, where a Gender Perspective (PG) is crucial. Currently, only a few institutions, like FES Aragón and the University of Oaxaca, have explicit PG subjects in their law programs. To truly transform the legal landscape, it is imperative that future lawyers and judges are well-versed in PG, enabling them to advocate for and uphold gender equality effectively.

The integration of men into the private sphere is not just about sharing household chores; it’s about redefining the societal norms that have long relegated domestic responsibilities to women. "We have worked a lot incorporating women into the public sphere. The revolutionary thing is to integrate men into the private sphere," Rodríguez states. This means fostering a culture where men are equally involved in caregiving, child-rearing, and domestic tasks, thereby supporting their partners and promoting a balanced distribution of responsibilities.

Beyond Rhetoric and Towards Real Change in Mexico

Rodríguez outlines a comprehensive framework for consolidating substantive equality. Central to this framework is the National Care System (SNC), which encompasses a range of support structures such as shelters for victims, reintegration programs for women into the labor market, flexible work schedules, full-time schools, and children's homes. "The SNC, shelters, reintegration of women into the labor market, flexible schedules, full-time schools, children's homes, shelters for victims, specialized prosecutors' offices," she enumerates, stressing the multifaceted nature of the solutions required.

These initiatives are not mere policy proposals; they represent the bedrock of a society that values and supports its women. Full-time schools and childcare centers are particularly crucial, providing women with the peace of mind and opportunity to participate fully in the labor market. Shelters and specialized prosecutors' offices are vital for protecting and empowering victims of gender violence.

Rodríguez envisions a federal cabinet that is not only equal in numbers but also inclusive in spirit. "I have one hope: that the next federal cabinet will not only be equal (it is already mandatory, we do not have to demand compliance with the law) but also the inclusion of women in the Ministry of Finance, in Pemex," she articulates. Such inclusion would ensure that women are represented in the traditionally male-dominated 'hard' sectors, bringing diverse perspectives and fostering a culture of equality.

Equally important is the inclusion of more men in social portfolios. This, Rodríguez believes, would "sensitize officials" and cultivate a new ethos in power dynamics. "Another mystique would germinate in power," she muses, hinting at a transformative shift in the very fabric of governance.

Without sufficient resources, public gender policies are destined to fail. The challenge for the first female president is clear: "to show women that she is with us; that if they attack one of them, they attack her." This solidarity must be reflected in the budget, where substantive equality cannot merely be a line item but a fully funded priority.

Rodríguez draws attention to Annex 13 of the PEF, an exclusive section for programs focused on women. Despite its budget increasing every year, the efficacy of these programs remains questionable. "From 2018 to 2023, Annex 13 grew 485% (286.9 million pesos). However, 99.9% of the increase (285.7 billion pesos) is explained by only 10 programs (most of them priority) within five agencies," she notes. This skewed allocation underscores the need for a more nuanced and effective budgeting process.

The program that has significantly inflated Annex 13 is the Pensions for Older Adults, contributing a staggering 191.2 billion pesos in 2023. This increase, Rodríguez points out, is largely due to its universal nature, benefiting both men and women equally. "That is, the Government's flagship program, which is granted equally to men and women, explains 60% of the increase in Annex 13 between 2018 and 2023." While beneficial, it does not directly address the unique challenges faced by women, highlighting a critical gap in gender-specific support.

Rodríguez’s reflections are a clarion call for genuine transformation in Mexico’s approach to gender equality. The emphasis must shift from symbolic gestures to substantive action, ensuring that policies are backed by adequate resources and implemented effectively. The inclusion of women in key decision-making roles, particularly in traditionally male-dominated sectors, is crucial for fostering a culture of equality.

Furthermore, the integration of men into social portfolios and the private sphere can catalyze a broader cultural shift towards gender sensitivity and shared responsibilities. Educational reforms that promote equality from a young age, along with robust support systems like the SNC, are essential for creating an environment where women can thrive.

In-text Citation: (Mondragón, 2024, pp. 6-11)