Washington, D.C. March 8th, 2016
Excellencies, ladies and gentleman, I am delighted to be here to mark International Women’s Day as Ambassador of Mexico to the US.
As many of you know, I have been recently appointed to this position and I am pleased to open this event dedicated to create awareness of the challenges that migrant women face today and to discussing the work that governments, NGOs, scholars, international organizations and each one of us together can put in place to better assist women and girls who migrate.
I would like to thank all members of the diplomatic corps who join us today, especially the Ambassador of Guatemala, Marithza Ruiz, and each one of you that make a statement by attending this event.
My sincere appreciation also to the Washington Office on Latin America; the Organization of American States; the Women’s Foreign Policy Group; Equal Futures Partnership, and to the organizations that work on human rights and gender for your support, and for the work you do every day to assist women and immigrants.
Today we have and outstanding group of women on our Panel who will give us different perspectives to help us understand the intricate factors that come together to affect the rights of women and girls. Ms. Maureen Meyer is a Senior Associate for Mexico, from the Washington Office on Latin America; Ms. Hilary Anderson, a Senior Gender Specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Women at the Organization of American States and last but not least, Claudette Monroy, who is an Education Specialist and a DREAMER. The Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Ana Luisa Fajer will moderate the panel.
Despite the fact that women have been working on how to advance their rights for decades, progress for women and girls is still part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the UN, agreed upon by all governments. In many parts of the world today people gather to debate how to best advance women’s empowerment and overcome barriers to change. So, why are we still concerned? I would like to mention some revealing statistics on what’s happening with women today:
- Every year, an estimated 15 million girls under 18 are married worldwide.
- 4 out of 5 victims of human trafficking are girls.
- Only half of the world’s working-age women are in the labor force, compared to 77 percent of men.
- 62 million girls are denied an education.
- Women serving in the military are more likely to be raped by a comrade than killed by an enemy.
- At least 2000 honor killings occur each year.
- Women around the world aged 15-44 are more at risk for rape and domestic violence than for cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.
- Only 30 percent of the world's researchers are women.
Unfortunately, this list could go on and on and if we focus on women who migrate the scenario looks even dimmer.
Since the 70s there has been a feminization of migration, with more women traveling alone or with their children. The increased number of American women in the workforce has also augmented the demand for immigrant women to take care of children, the elderly and the disabled.
Understanding gender in the context of migration is essential to better serving migrant women. When traveling alone, women are often victims of sexual abuse and human trafficking. The jobs performed by immigrant women are disproportionately precarious, informal and low paying when compared to those of their male counterparts. Immigrant women are in general more prone to becoming victims of withholding wages and domestic violence, which many times goes unreported for fear of being separated from their children if deported.
All these reasons, along with the current situation of immigrants in the US, has led the Mexican government to step up its efforts. Throughout our consular network across the country, comprised of 50 Consulates, we have begun operating new Centers for the Legal Defense of Mexican immigrants in the US. In these centers, immigrants are provided with consular assistance as well as legal representation through a strengthened network of attorneys, NGOs and law schools.
This effort aims to protect migrant workers, especially the most vulnerable, which usually are women and girls, by ensuring that their rights as human beings and workers are respected according to international standards.
The consular network will react fast and effectively to help to ensure that mothers and children will not be separated during the deportation process.
Special attention is given to immigrant women and girls who are at risk through the Health and Women’s Windows at the Mexican Consulates, where women can receive information about how to deal with domestic violence, and also get referrals for doctors and low cost clinics to have screening tests and receive prenatal care, among other things.
Ladies and Gentleman,
Despite all the difficulties, women migrants tend to remit more of their income back home than male migrants. They are significant financial contributors to their homes, a great example to their children and a strong force of endurance in the US, with a steady determination to improve their lives.
This is why every effort needs to be made to help educate women and to support them as they advance and move out of the unskilled labor category. DACA has proved to be a valuable and efficient tool in supporting young immigrants as they continue their education, ascend the socioeconomic ladder and better contribute to the vibrant economy and civic life of this country.
Let me be very clear about his: criminalization of immigrants increases the vulnerabilities of women and girls in destination countries. This is why the Mexican Government is committed to continuously looking for better ways to support and empower all immigrants, particularly women.
When women thrive, entire countries succeed. Women’s rights are based on international principles of equality, non-discrimination and protection.
Finally, I will end by recalling an old Chinese proverb:
''Women hold up half the sky.''