Many paths lead to becoming an activist, but it always begins with becoming aware of our realities. Vianeth Rojas’ path began when she was 24 years old and studied her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Even though she was born in Puebla and lived there all her life, it was in France, during an academic exchange at a university with a long tradition of student activism, that she understood what social movements and organizations could achieve. “When I returned from France, I began to realize the situation my state was in, what my city was facing, and I realized that I had been living in a bubble.”
Upon her return, she began to collaborate with a group of friends in an NGO focused on promoting LGBTTI rights. “I really enjoyed the work we did but I didn’t feel very identified with the organization, as the majority of my coworkers were men and I wanted to do something with women because I realized that something was missing.” That was when Puebla, like many other states, reformed its constitution to protect life from the moment of conception. In spite of this being a reform that seriously affected women’s reproductive rights, Vianeth found that no local women’s movement was prepared to offer resistance to this reform. Thus, her path became clear, first they had to organize themselves and then replicate the process with other women.
With the reform about to be passed, it was extremely urgent to get to work. Through Ddeser’s capacity building, Vianeth learned the importance of implementing political actions, but she noticed that the agendas national networks promoted did not take specific local needs into account. A local feminism, based on Puebla’s own context, had to be promoted: a feminism capable of addressing reproductive rights that were being affected by the constitutional reform, and specifically, abortion.
“We needed an organization where we could set the agenda, one that would respond to the particular needs of our state. That was why we decided to create the Observatory for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, with the clear idea that we are the ones who are familiar with Puebla’s political and social contexts.”
Vianeth plays games with children to teach them sex education.
The Observatory has been working for five years now. “Our first project was with Fondo Semillas. Fondo Semillas supported us and enabled us to register ourselves as a legal organization,” Vianeth shares. The Observatory has had important achievements such as influencing legislation regarding feminicide, making obstetric violence recognizable as a part of the state constitution, and ensuring the creation of a law against discrimination in Puebla. Since Vianeth has had first hand experience in this fight, today she is regarded as an expert in sexual and reproductive rights. But there are other victories that have been more satisfactory, those that motivate her to perceive the world in a different light: “to see change take place in each woman, —which is similar to what happened to me- see how your reality and your rights are broadened. To possess information and the certainty that with this information you can demand your rights, you can create citizenship. This is the nicest thing, as well as the commitment we all have to replicate this with other women.”
In a manifestation, against feminicide in Puebla
Currently, Vianeth´s work focuses on promoting the implementation of the state’s abortion laws, to expand existing grounds to include abortion when pregnancy affects the overall health of women, and also to help the general population become familiar with this information because, as she explains, “many women do not know that they have a right to an abortion and that there are circumstances under which it is legal in Puebla.” To strengthen her work Vianeth participates in the program Capacity Building for Advocacy of Women’s Rights in Mexico, financed by the European Commission and operated jointly by Fondo Semillas and the Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute.
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Abortion in Puebla
- Currently the constitution indicates 4 cases where abortion is legal: rape, when the woman’s life is at risk, congenital abnormalities, and severe neglect during pregnancy.
- Only 4 out of 10 people in the state know that abortion is legal in the case of rape.
- According to official figures, between 2010 and 2013, 54,840 women underwent an abortion. This number excludes clandestine abortions.
- Since abortion was legalized in Mexico City, Puebla holds third place among users of this service.
- Between 2011 and 2013, nine women were prosecuted in the state for the crime of abortion and three of those cases ended in convictions.
- 7 out of 10 people agree that abortions should be practiced according to the conditions outlined in the constitution.
- 6 out of 10 people agree that cases for legal abortions must be broadened to include the protection of the pregnant woman’s overall health.