Women's Voices in Mexico: “Having your voice heard is a revolutionary act”

Screenshot of participants gathering at the Women's Voices storytelling workshop in Mexico, 2017. Used with permission from Youtube.

N.B. The audio and video links are all in the Spanish language.

Women's Voices: stories that transform is a multimedia laboratory based in Mexico that seeks new ways of telling stories about women and their influence on social change. For the organizers, gender norms are an important factor in understanding how women's roles and narratives in society are understood and constructed across a wide range of experiences.

The second edition of Women's Voices held in 2017 brought together women from different circles and laid the groundwork for storytelling projects by “gender non-conformists, indigenous women, poets, journalists, footballers, boxers, land and environmental activists, motorcyclists, sportswomen, bicycle messengers, healers, midwives, bisexuals, and those who have lost their lives due to violence.”

Organizer Eloísa Diez explains:

Trabajamos con mujeres y disidentes de género en un laboratorio multimedia donde reflexionamos sobre cómo el género afecta la manera en que se han contado nuestras historias, construyendo narrativas y apropiándonos de la tecnología para visibilizar el rol transformador que tenemos.

We are working with women and gender non-conformists in a multimedia laboratory where we reflect on how gender affects the way our stories have been told, constructing narratives and using technology to make the transformative role we play more visible.

Those who share their ancestral wisdom: healers and caregivers

Women's Voices workshops focus on opening up spaces and giving storytelling tools to women who participate so that they can transform their environments. The key word for Women's Voices is amplified: the project requires women to focus on other women's stories instead of just their own. 

Judzil Palma Ortega's video featuring Rosalía Méndez Xool is a good example. Rosalía is a Mayan woman from Yucatán, Mexico, and practices traditional medicine which stands in opposition to the modernity ushered in by cultural evolution in Mexico. This story highlights the importance of the oral transmission of knowledge that has benefited previous generations and continues curing and healing people today:

Esta mujer representa a las mujeres mayas actuales que contribuyen a que la cultura maya resista a los constantes cambios que ocurren en la cultura. Rosalía, nos enseña la importancia de la transmisión oral de estos conocimientos, ya que el uso de plantas en la alimentación y en sus prácticas medicinales han sido favorables para las generaciones pasadas, y las actuales, además de que han mantenido un equilibrio con el medio ambiente.

This woman represents Mayan Women of today who contribute to the Mayan culture, to resist the constant changes that are happening within the culture. Rosalía teaches us the importance of the oral transmission of this knowledge. The use of plants in food and for medicinal purposes has been beneficial for past generations, as well as present, and has maintained an equilibrium with the environment.

Mikeas Sánchez, another participant, has focused her work on protecting cultural heritage and land protection. In this audio piece on the Women's Voices Soundcloud account, Azalia Hernández speaks with Mikeas and explores the role of women in the Zoque community (Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Tabasco, Mexico) who are in charge of looking after new generations and teaching them the community's traditions.

Mi abuela nunca aprendió español. Tuvo miedo del olvido de sus dioses. Tuvo miedo de despertarse una mañana sin los prodigios de su prole en la memoria. Mi abuela creía que solo en [lengua] zoque se podía hablar con el viento. [Mi abuela y mi madre] eran mujeres de fuerte carácter [aunque no tuvieran] la posibilidad de acceder a la educación [formal]. Para mi fueron un ejemplo claro de lucha y de justicia social […] Siempre me educaron para conocer toda la filosofía del pueblo zoque.

My grandmother never learned Spanish. She was scared the Gods would forget her. She was frightened of waking up one morning without any memory of the wonders of her lineage. My grandmother believed that you could only speak with the wind in the Zoque language. [My grandmother and my mother] were women of strong character, although they didn't have access to a [formal] education. For me, they were a clear example of fighters and social justice […]. They always educated me on the philosophies of the Zoque people.

An audio piece entitled “Women giving birth” offers a collection of women's stories about the various ways of caring for one's body during childbirth. The stories affirm how women know their own bodies, they know how to give birth and “that there are as many ways to give birth as there are women doing it.”

On Women's Voices website, visitors can explore extensive archives of audio, video, and testimonials gathered during the workshops. The archives include voices of young football players from the Mazahua communities, female boxers, “clitorianas” (women who need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm), young journalists, bicycle messengers, and many more.

The Women's Voices workshop process lasted about six months, and in its final installment, it brought together more than 20 women-identified participants including transgender women, to tell their stories. The organizers: Luchadores, La Sandía Digital, SocialTIC, Subversiones and WITNESS, provided support through their activities dedicated to communication for change, the field of technology, the defense of a full sex life, community efforts and multimedia production in multiple languages from a gender-nonconforming and feminist perspective.

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