Mexican Indigenous Moms Pushed, Pulled by Fertility #Vaw #Womenrights


By Vania Smith-Oka

WeNews guest author

Mexican Indigenous women

 

Credit: Shawna Nelles on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Most women in Amatlan consider themselves, their neighbors and their friends to be good mothers.

Almost all the women in the community labor in the domestic sphere–they cook the food, wash the clothes and generally look after the house and children. Making lonches — lunches for the men in the fields and for the school-age children — is an integral part of their mothering. A good mother frets about what she is feeding her children. Though the terms the women use to talk about each other’s mothering are similar to the good-bad dichotomy used by the main­stream, their interpretations and the reasons behind their interpretations are more nuanced.

For the state, good mothers follow the rules, have few children and invest in them emotionally; they are also expected to live in a nuclear family. For the women I met, good motherhood entailed a significant amount of investment, but also drawing from one’s extended-kin network to achieve a child’s success; abuelas and ahuis (grandmothers and aunts) were frequently key to the socialization process of any child . . .

Not Suffering in Silence

In Amatlan, many mothers suffer alongside, or because of, their children. While marianismo – -the all-suffering, passive motherhood epitomized in the Virgin Mary — is very present in many corners of Latin America, it is not much in evidence in this region. The mothers who do struggle with their children neither view themselves as martyrs nor do they suffer in silence.

Esperanza often despaired at the laziness of her son Adrian, one day exclaiming, “He is no use to me here. He should go away to work but he doesn’t want to. I don’t know what to do with him.” I suggested, “You should stop feeding him.” She replied, laughing, “That’s true, then he’ll go away. . . . [If he is here] I worry when he doesn’t get back [or] whether he has been beaten or something. But when he is far away I don’t worry. My head can rest.”

All the mothers I spoke with worried about their children’s future. Emma said, regarding one of her sons who was attending university in the city of Morelia, “A student is a lot of money. My son always asks me for money, 70 pesos, or 50, and it is a lot of money. As he doesn’t work. . . . And when there is money we can [help] but often there is none. I tell [my husband] to go to Mexico and to work in a house, or as a bricklayer, to make some money.” She added with a smile, “But he says he is too old.”

Women in Amatlan were the primary caregivers to children, whether their own or their extended kin; their main duties were domestic. Emma’s eldest daughter, Cristina, irritably pointed out that mothers, and women, had to do everything with never any rest.

Exhausting Anxieties

She constantly worried about her children and hoped that they would be able to make something of their lives. But her anxiety was exhausting, as she said, extending her emotion to all aspects of motherhood:

“It’s just that as women we have to do everything, get pregnant and be nauseated for the first few months and when everything makes you feel sick. And [cleaning] the pigsty made me feel so sick. And then in the last [months] it is difficult to stand up and do everything. It is so much trouble. And then the pain of the birth, and to breastfeed, and to get up to change the baby in the middle of the night. Your husband is happily asleep but not you. And then to have to control yourself so you don’t get pregnant. We [women] have to do everything. There is only the condom and the vasectomy for men, but they don’t want them. We have to do it if we don’t want to get pregnant. And well, one has to satisfy the husband and also not have so many children.”

This centrality of women as caregivers and men as providers is echoed in the structure of Oportunidades, a federal social assistance program in Mexico. When some of the men of the village on occasion asked to receive the money alongside the women, they were scolded by the authorities and told that it was only for the women. They were told that they should work, not be lazy and support their families. This response somehow implied that women’s natural job at the home could be rewarded and encouraged with money, but men needed to be out in the public sphere without complaint.

Excerpted from the new book, “Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico,” by Vania Smith-Oka, published by Vanderbilt University Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. For more information:www.VanderbiltUniversityPress.com.

 

Your Laughter by Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda


laughter

Poster by  Kamayani Bali Mahabal

 

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
… do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

Pablo Neruda

 

#VAW -Raped by stepfather at 13, Forced to illegal abortion #Mexico


We must never forget!

RH Reality Check / By Dawn Hill

I Was Raped By My Stepfather at 13 and Forced to Get an Illegal Abortion in Mexico

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because abortion was illegal in the 1950s.

This is one of a series of powerful stories from survivors of rape, you will find them all here .

Last week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

Mr. Mourdock last night said: “I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”

This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”

It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

Toward Universal Health Coverage


By DAVID DE FERRANTI and JULIO FRENK
Published: April 5, 2012

Two recent events underscore the disparity between the United States and the rest of the world on health coverage. Last week, American reactions to the Supreme Court hearings showed how deeply divided the nation is on the subject. This week, at an international forum in Mexico City, country delegates from around the globe made clear that they are not only aiming for universal coverage but also rapidly getting there.

Except for the United States, the 25 wealthiest nations now have some form of it. Others are not far behind, including Brazil and Thailand. Even nations at lower income levels, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Rwanda and Ghana are working toward it. India, South Africa, China and Colombia are on the move, too.

Mexico has just crossed the goal line. Its reformers would be the first to say that many more improvements are needed, but their accomplishment is nonetheless noteworthy because they faced challenges no less daunting than the United States does today — and had fewer resources to draw on (Mexico’s economy is one tenth the size of the United States’). Special interests resisted change, dysfunctional fragmentation impeded progress, and poor, highly needy groups dispersed in remote locations had to be reached.

One of the hardest challenges was that many Mexicans — from top leaders to ordinary citizens — were skeptical that any solution would help. So the reformers had to find powerful evidence, which included pilot-testing of their proposals. Also key was a strategy that combined expansion of coverage with two other initiatives. A new means of paying doctors and hospitals ended incentives to provide as many services as possible. An emphasis on prevention helped avert illness and its high costs. All three were essential: If the latter two elements had been absent, expansion of coverage would have been too expensive.

The United States now faces this same problem. If the Supreme Court strikes down the Obama law, there could still be a hefty expansion in coverage because much of that expansion has already happened, and voters would resist having it taken away. But the cost-containment components in the law would be killed, so costs overall could shoot up — the exact opposite of what many opponents of the bill want.

What other lessons are there from Mexico’s and other countries’ efforts?

For starters, the ABCDE of successful reform is crucial.

A — agenda — means that a compelling case has to be made, linking health improvement to other societal concerns, such as economic growth, job creation and political stability.

B — budget — is about securing adequate resources, though the United States, which spends far more on health already than others do per person, needs to focus on spending more efficiently.

C — capacity — is about ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place to meet the expanded demand.

D — deliverables — means that the reforms have to deliver on their promises if support for them is to be sustained.

E — evidence and evaluation — stresses the importance of continuously probing for ways to improve.

Another lesson is that universal coverage cannot be achieved through employer plans alone, since they don’t reach the large numbers of self-employed, unemployed, retired people and those who work in small businesses.

Still another lesson is that one size definitely does not fit all. A country’s culture and politics matters. Take, for instance, the roles of government and the private sector. The fears some Americans have about big government are not borne out by results in other countries, where the private sector continues to have a vibrant roles, especially in the provision of services, while the government concentrates more on financing, stewardship of the whole system and ensuring a level playing field.

The U.S. health care system already has much more of a public-private mix than is commonly realized — in some ways far more that in less developed countries. Also, success doesn’t come overnight: An eight-year transition period was needed in Mexico, and some countries have taken longer.

Historically, many things that today people everywhere agree should be collective responsibilities were once purely private matters. The United States, for example, led the way in making education universal long before most other countries did.

Experiences from elsewhere — including lessons about what not to do — can help the United States to better craft whatever is best for its own unique needs and preferences. They can also suggest ways to use American ingenuity to get beyond rancor and ideology and get down to the nuts and bolts.

The trend elsewhere toward universal coverage and Mexico’s achievement this week stand as reminders of how much the United States can attain if it finds its way again to the problem-solving leadership role

David de Ferranti, a former vice president of the World Bank, is president of the Results for Development Institute in Washington. Julio Frenk, a former minister of health in Mexico, is dean of the Harvard School of Public Health

What Twitter’s New Censorship Policy Means for Human Rights


Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Twitter dropped quite the shocker last week when it declared its new policy to remove tweets in certain countries to abide by specific national laws. While a tweet will remain visible to the rest of the world, specific messages will disappear in the target country (e.g., following requests by governments).

The ensuing backlash saw a lot of people screaming “censorship” (ironically, on Twitter). While the first wave of criticism has quickly calmed down, for a human rights watchdog, the announcement is quite alarming:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression… Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.

A new policy for old-school repression

Twitter claims that this isn’t a dramatic shift in policy, but rather clarification of existing policy, with a “fix.” Previous removals of content were global, for example, when they removed a tweet, no one could see it anywhere. Now, country-by-country, Twitter can block content specially tailored to that country. In a bizarre logic, the increase in control of information in response to government demands means, according to Twitter — less ‘censorship.’

One may incredulously respond that country-specific removal would further disadvantage people who saw Twitter as a means of circumventing illegal restrictions on their speech and expression. Further disadvantaging people who’ve turned to the service as a means of empowering themselves through voice, assembly, and access to information.

Though there has been an outpouring of anger in response, some are quite pleased. Today, Thailand became the first government to publicly endorse Twitter’s decision. China and Iran haven’t made any statements (China’s state-run newspaper did praise the move), but I suspect they’re pleased, as are several other governments that have sought to shut down Twitter at the first sign of dissent.

As an aside I should note that — as with any attempt to control information (see my post on SOPA/PIPA — there are already easy ways — five at last count — to bypass Twitter’s blocks.

Outrage and tough choices

I’ve appreciated the outrage, given the importance (not to be confused with value) of Twitter. I have no doubt that information posted on Twitter — and any other large public networking platform — has resulted in all manner of things, from the terrible, to the great.

We know that information spread via Twitter has saved countless lives, from natural disasters such as in Japan or in humanitarian crises, such as in Cote d’Ivoire. Twitter has contributed to regime change in repressive places. It has even helped free a prisoner in Kashmir and has become a valuable network for citizen journalists and concerned citizens, such as in Mexico. It is a medium by which human rights advocates carry forward their work, such as our Eyes on Syria project (look for #EyesonSyria — but maybe not if you are in Syria), or Amnesty’s own Twitter account.

But for all of these goods, information on Twitter has surely created harm. In crisis, it can become a dangerous medium for rumors or misinformation (or “terrorism” charges). Al-Shabab‘s recent banning of the International Red Cross (a violation of international law of the highest order) was communicated via Twitter. Indeed, Kenya‘s military has been fighting Al-Shabab on the ground, as well as in the twitterverse.

Importantly, information has no inherent value… it is the effect of the content that lends moral weight.

Twitter has never had to make difficult decisions about that content, however. Twitter has never had to be responsible for controlling content in the manner its new policy will require of it. And Twitter will be called on by governments around the world to censor. The cat is out of the bag, and the decisions that will need to be made by Twitter lawyers and staff should give them sleepless nights. At some point — somewhere — harm will be done by those choices. Voices will be silenced. Lives will be lost. Twitter will inevitably make mistakes, and the world will be different as a result. It is a power it would have been wise to deny having.

The stark fact is that — like traditional media, housing, agriculture, or any of the other sectors upon which humanity’s ability to fully enjoy their human rights is dependent — profit motivates great innovations in the digital world. Profit also motivates consolidation and control.

The source of the immense outrage over the policy says more about our collective confusion over digital networking tools than Twitter’s policy. Twitter is seen as a public good. But it is not. Twitter is a (private) company, one that probably made over $100m in profit in 2011 — though its profit potential may be an order of magnitude higher. It is a company like any other, with motives. As with other companies, we — as consumers — have leverage.

But far from suggesting a boycott, let’s start with the basics.

#International Law

I appreciate Twitter’s appeal to the rule of law. Let me make my own.

We have an international body of law that protects the rights of people, and sets forth the obligations of governments, businesses, and the everyday person. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations spend an exceptional proportion of their resources monitoring compliance with the law, and calling out those who violate human rights law. Not just governments, but businesses as well, from Shell and Dow Chemical, to cell phone manufacturers, mortgage banks, and private security firms.

Allow me to offer a word of advice to Twitter: Laws often clash. In the U.S., there were laws on the books in the southern states that were ruled unconstitutional long before they were finally scrapped. And there are surely domestic laws in countries that will be cited by governments or security elements as a basis for denying speech via Twitter that will clash with international human rights law. They will be illegal domestic ‘laws’ in contravention of established international human rights laws. They will be unjust laws.

What will Twitter do?

At some point, Twitter will be pressured by governments to change its terms of service so the work around for access to blocked tweets becomes a use violation…Twitter does in fact know where you are tweeting from, and can deny your ability to change your location to circumvent information blackouts.

At some point, user information and location will be demanded by a repressive regime with a cheap, and by international standards, meaningless veneer of a court order. They will demand it, and will appeal to domestic ‘law’.

What is abundantly clear is that human rights monitors and advocates — for the immense power Twitter and other digital networking tools have given them — have an entirely new domain to monitor. As with other sectors, business decisions in the digital world have human rights implications. For the immense value of Twitter, the policy announcement only brings into focus what we’ve known for some time — human rights monitors and advocates have a lot more work to do since the digital revolution. Our collective vigilance is needed more than ever, however we chose to communicate.

We will be watching you, Twitter. Take it as a measure of your importance.

Scott Edwards is Director of International Advocacy for Africa and Director of the Science for Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA.

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