The Women’s Collective (COLEM) of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, has celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary of its work in defense of human rights and against violence against women, particularly indigenous. Martha Figueroa Mier, founder of COLEM, related that the group began with a march on 10 May 1989 in San Cristóbal, in which 186 women mobilized against sexual violence. According to Figueroa, COLEM “was the only social movement in the 1995 UN Beijing conference on women that warned that recognition of the traditions, uses, and customs of the indigenous should be done with precaution” and succeeded in imposing the following qualifier globally: “always insofar as these do not violate women’s rights.”
Martha Figueroa recalled that in December 1994, the Center for Investigation and Training of Women edited the book Chiapas and What of Women?, which questioned any approach toward revolution that excluded women–in this case, following the insurrection of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). It notes that “the armed uprising recognizes social ills: it is a progressive or regressive, or what have you, coming from the social movements, particularly indigenous, but women were left to the side. Confirmation of this can be seen in the San Andrés, which provided only three sentences for us, using a fairly welfarist conception that supposedly was to protect women’s rights.”
The Women’s Collective created a Feminary to reflect on feminism and women’s rights; it challenged the terms being pushed by international foundations, such as Ford and MacArthur, in terms of sexual and reproductive rights and maternal health. As Figueroa says, in COLEM “we have been active participants in the proposal of a cultural vision based in gender perspectives and indigenous women from a social vantage point to make gender, name, and face central to another form of justice.” Furthermore, the group seeks to train lawyers, form and informal, to litigate cases of women from a gender perspective.
For more information (in Spanish):
No democrática, la revolución que excluye a las mujeres: Colem (La Jornada, 19 de mayo de 2014)
For more information from SIPAZ (in English):
Chiapas: Rejection of gender alert without prior investigation (15 January 2014)
Chiapas: Women declare alert over gender violence (20 July 2013)