In an effort to tackle gender inequality in Mexico, the federal government has recently joined the feminist #HeForShe United Nations media campaign.
#HeForShe, or #NosotrosporEllas in Mexico, is a solidarity project that encourages men to get involved in the battle for gender equity. Emma Watson, ambassador for the UN and face of the campaign, spearheaded the movement in 2014. Since then, #HeForShe has reached most Latin American countries, but only Ecuador and Mexico make the elite list of five Commitment Leaders on the official website.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took the pledge last year, and this week Secretary of Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong also committed with three measures: a national media campaign that promotes equality efforts to help raise awareness within the press on issues of equality, and the adoption of a political system that facilitates eradicating violence against women.
In a press conference, Osorio Chong highlighted that Mexico is already taking several steps toward gender equality. He mentioned 42 percent of deputies in Mexico’s congress are women, while worldwide only 22 percent of lawmakers are female.
Meanwhile, statistics on violence against women in Mexico continue to be disturbing. Two thirds of women age 15 or older have endured some kind of violence. In addition to that, recent data reveals 41.7 percent of the population believes men to be the main aggressors.
So far, nearly 19,000 Mexicans have taken the #HeForShe pledge – 80 percent of them identified as male.
Taking the pledge
The campaign is fresh out of the oven in Mexico, and the reach is still minimal. Only about 0.01 percent of the population has signed up on the official site. In Ecuador, the number of pledges hits 2.5 percent of the population.
Despite the low numbers, some experts are optimistic and see the campaign as an opportunity for men who have not been involved in the issue of gender equity to begin paying attention.
Dr. Norma Ojeda, a sociology professor specializing in Mexican gender studies and family issues at San Diego State University, says in many Latin American countries, gender equity is often understood as a women’s issue — not one men should be concerned with. A media campaign like #HeForShe, Ojeda says, can be used to raise awareness and rally the male troops.
But it can also be a double-edged sword.
Ojeda points out one major concern about the future of #HeForShe in Mexico is going to be what role the federal government will play. She says if it becomes a campaign of the federal government rather than a grassroots movement, that may jeopardize its success.
#HeForShe could be used by politicians for various political purposes — not necessarily positive ones. She also argues many gender equity goals the #HeForShe movement is taking on are not compatible with the Catholic family values encouraged by the Mexican government.
“The federal government is endorsing this knowing that it contradicts certain aspects,” she says. “[T]his president in particular, Peña Nieto, has been proved to be very pro Orthodox Catholic ‘creyente,’ (believer) not only ‘creyente’ individually, but [he] is using the presidency to in some way go in line with the Vatican. So how he is going to be able to handle these kind of contradictions?”
Whether it turns out to be good or bad, Osorio Chong says officially joining the #HeForShe initiative can accelerate the path toward equality and break down the walls of gender stereotypes that limit Mexico’s development.
“This initiative calls upon the government and society to deepen the discussions about our roles, attitudes and beliefs,” he said. “And to dismantle those practices that, without us realizing, keep us away from our goal of equality.”