Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Emily, Mexico


“…one of the exercises I used to do was the life project and I have it very clear and I keep it. Some time ago I started to review it and many things that I portrayed there I have achieved and I even started crying because I felt proud and happy, all this was just that empowerment, is this that I have been given the freedom to decide in all aspects of my life.”

Emily’s Story

She told me how her aunt was offered employment to become the municipal coordinator for a youth network here in Tuxtla and that she accepted. From that moment, it was pretty common to talk about DDESER, the name of the network. She told me about her aunt. She was in charge of organising workshops, forums, and other activities.

For the first time, Emily, with her mom, attended one of the activities organised  by her aunt, and loved it. She said she didn’t understand a few things, so she explored and asked questions. Everything discussed was very compelling to her. Her insistence and interest grew so much that her aunt began to call her to the activities. When there was a forum, her aunt would get her to help with the assistance list, take pictures, or do anything else she could be helpful with.

Every time there were chats about children’s rights. Her aunt invited her to participate. In the beginning, I thought she was only interested in going to her aunt’s work the same way as I was about going with my mother to her job. But it didn’t take me long enough to realise that my friend loved going to that space. I remember her happiness when the members of DDESER were finally recognised as a  member of the network at 12. She jumped out of joy, and so did I. Each time she talked more about DDESER. She also began to tell all the girls from her school that they need to have information to make decisions based on their wishes and plans for their lives.  Suddenly, I started to pay more attention to all the things she talked about with the other  classmate. All the information she shared with us and learned at workshops. She used to tell us: “you gals know that we have the right to have sexual relations  and access to contraceptive methods.”

I never talked about these things at home because I knew my family would disapprove and that they won’t let me hang out with her. Some of the girls would tell their parents about what we would talk about, and it would be very complicated because the parents would think of her as a bad influence on us. I remember one time at a parent’s meeting, Emily and I went to the bathroom and heard two mothers saying: “how is it possible that this girl knows so much? Why is she becoming a bad influence on my daughter?” They talked about how her age was not appropriate to know that much information about sexuality. That it was not right that she spoke about it at school. The parents considered Emily a bad influence on the rest of the girls, and they claimed that she would get pregnant soon.

It was not only a school situation. Emily told me about family members who used to tell her aunt that she was a bad influence on her because she made her change her mind. They used to say that before Emily attended her aunt’s activities, she went to church and suddenly stopped. People weren’t able to see Emily’s happiness. She contributed to society by working with other young people, fulfilling her expectations, and making herself feel comfortable with her actions.

It was a fortune that none of the previous actions made her stop going to her activities at DDESER. Up to this day, she keeps going to them, and whoever listens to her talk about her work as a promoter can testify to the passion she expresses. Without any doubt, she had her grandmother’s support. The most important woman in her life supported her participation in those spaces. It also helped her learn how to face adverse reactions.

Today, one decade later. I hear Emily say that the network helped her learned about those topics which allowed her to face adverse circumstances.  She learned how to make some decisions. I think this was a great life gift for Emily and those who felt connected to her ideas. It amazes me to remember everything we have learned together and watched how we changed over time. An example of this was when we switched from hanging out at school only with the girls considered “good girls” to hanging with all the girls. We also realised that it was wrong for us to think that some behaviors were considered wrong because they were stereotypes imposed just for being women.

We think about when we wrote our life plan together, we were excited to dream about the life we wanted for ourselves in the future. As Emily says, every girl should establish a life project and be capable of realising it.  She told me the other day that she still has the life project we wrote together. When she reviewed it, she noticed that we were able to accomplish most of the things we wrote which made her very excited. She even cried with happiness and pride due to her empowerment. Her tears were in gratitude for having the freedom to decide over the different aspects of her life.

I never tell her this enough, but I’m also proud of her for everything she achieved.  Last year, she was a representative at the Youth Parliament Rosario  Castellanos, where she participated in an initiative called “Migration and Gender:  women are transiting through Chiapas.” Or the time she won a trip to Canada through a contest made by the Youth Mexican Institute. The competition was named “Young Analysts,” where she was recognised for doing the most outstanding analysis of the differences between legislations from Oaxaca, Colima, Chiapas,  and Morelos regarding sexual and reproductive rights laws. I find it obvious to recognize the power of women’s networks when I talk about Emily. She always remembers that listening to other women’s histories strengthened her personally and at the organisational level. But I also have seen the way she has helped other women to leave the circle of violence.

Emily always says that we need to remind girls that they have been carried on the backs of women who came before them, and they must continue to fight side by side with each other’s support. And recognise the importance of joining spaces, searching for information about feminism, asking if there are ways to get involved (like she did), and never hesitate to take it. I agree with Emily because I met her when we were ten, and now I know the 25  year old Emily, the one who beat her fear to use the green scarf, and uses it with pride because it represents her fight and the fight of many women. The Emily, who once wished to participate, now facilitates processes for other women to participate.