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CIAO DATE: 6/00
Regionalism From the People's Perspective: Mexican Women's Views and Experiences of Integration and Transnational Networking 1
Edmé DominguezInternational Studies Association
"...yo creo que las mujeres han logrado establecer vínculos muy fuertes con organizaciones de mujeres del otro lado, Estados Unidos y Canadá, para lograr ir como desentrañando, ir viendo cómo se dan en este proceso de globalización y como está el TLC realmente no, no nos beneficia ¿no? no sólo para las mujeres si no que creo que en conjunto se han logrado como romper, creo que ésta es una ventaja de la globalización, que logró como romper este nivel primario de solidaridad ... se ha podido hacer un nivel inicial de solidaridad con mujeres de, del [país] del imperio, digamos ¿no? esa creo que ha sido una ventaja dada por este marco de la globalización ¿no?.." (Cid 18-40a) (I think that women have been able to establish strong links with women organizations on the other side, in the US and Canda to start understanding how does this process of glabalisation is working and to see how this NAFTA is not good for us. I think this is an advantage of globalization, to break this primary level of solidarity to go into another level of solidarity with women of the empire, I think this has been an advantage given by the globalization framework..)
Much has been written on the "new regionalism", on NAFTA and its sucesses and failures, mostly at the economic and macroperspective level. The social consequences of this integration process are also being studied. However, very little has been done to record the civil society perspective, their views on the consequences of this regionalization, their activities concerning such a process, their proposals. An even less has been done regarding women's views and actions in relation to regional integration, specially in the case of Mexico.
This is what we propose to do in this paper. We want to present several experiences of transnational networking and solidarity actions among trade union women and then to look at individual views among women of the external world, of regional integration and of globalisation. It should be noticed that this paper is a partial result of a larger project of research on women citizen movements in Mexico presently carried out by Ines Castro A. and the author.
Most of the material used in the paper has been compiled during a field-work stay of the author during three months (Nov.1998-Jan. 1999) in Mexico. During this period about 39 qualitative-open interviews where carried out with women participating in different citizens and feminist organizations.
We start presenting some reflections on the subject of regionalization, citizenship and transnational networks. We describe then some reactions to regional integration among different organizations in general and in particular those coming from trade union women networks. Finally, we offer some views of women not engaged in the actions described above, but participating in different movements and organizations within what we could call the new civil society in Mexico.
II. Some reflections on citizenship and networks at a regional or global level.
What has regionalism, even the "new regionalism" to do with citizenship?. According to Björn Hettne the "new regionalism" emerged in the 80s after the decline of the integration theory and praxis in the 1970s and it implies a more comprehensive regionalism, multidimensional but with stronger emphasis on the political dimensions. It is growing from below, in a situation where national economies are outgrowing their national polities. Regions are organized as a response to regionalization in other parts of the world. (B. Hettne: 1999,p. xvi) However, it seems that regional integration in the North American area is mostly a model imposed from above, it is embedded in the ideology of neoliberalism and it is seen as part of the political-economic restructuring process in which Latin American countries have been involved since the outbreak of the debt crisis in 1982. It is part of the strategy to ensure the effective accomplishment of SAPS (structural adjustment programs) initiated under the pressure of the international financial community, particularly the IMF and the World Bank. It is the "developmentalist program of the 1990s". (Marchand,1995:48)
Such an integration would have very little to do with initiatives from below, as most of these restructuring programs, and specially free trade, are dictated from above. However, this process has also provoked, is provoking, a new phenomenom that was not contemplated by its designers: the reactions of a civil society affected by the process and willing to participate, that is say to exercise its citizenship rights, in order to change that process. And this participation has acquired a new dimension, it is transnational, it is crossing borders, it is demanding rights and assuming responsibilities at the regional no longer at the state level. We thus need a new multilayered conceptualization of citizenship that loosens its bonds with the nation-state and "..is defined over a spectrum which extends from the local to the global, reflecting local and regional pressures for greater political autonomy on the one hand and globalizing tendencies on the other" (Ruth Lister, 1997) This notion of global citizenship would reflect at the international level the rights and responsabilities associated with national citizenship offering as well a tool to counteract citizenship's exclusionary power. This also involves a link between citizenship and human rights. The framework of global citizenship encourages a focus on the responsibilities of the more affluent nation-states towards those that lack the resources to translate human rights into effective citizenship rights This would stress the "global parameters of the responsible citizen's obligations" (Kathleen B. Jones, quoted by Lister 1997) The "importance of feminism of placing citizenship in a global context is underlined by the evidence that women in poorer nations, as managers of poverty and suppliers of 'flexible labour', bear the greater burden of the policies of the richer nations and the international economic institutions, such as the IMF that represents those interests." ((Ruth Lister, 1997)
Feminism has produced an enormous literature to criticize the liberal and republican notions of citizenship arguing their abstract and exclusionary nature that ignores the tension between the private and the public and the differences in terms of power, sex. class. race, etchnicity. etc. New theoretizations have tried to embrace both individual rights (particularly social and reproductive rights) and political participation and try to analize the relationship between the two. For those adopting this approach citizenship emerges as a dynamic concept in which process and outcome stand in a dialectical relationship. Adopting the concept of human agency citizenship becomes an expression of this agency at the political arena: citizenship as rights enables people to act as agents, individually or in collaboration with others. Rights themselves are reinterpreted as the object of political struggles in order to redefine them, to enrich them. (Ruth Lister, 1998)
A transnational civil society is perhaps on its way. But how do these citizens act in order to make their voices heard? in order to influence on levels of decision taking, in order to demand their rights, to modify policies but even to change the rules of the game? The answer is networking through what Keck and Sikkink could call transnational networks.
III. Transnational Networks, how they work, who they are
Although there is an increasing literature on the subject perhaps the study that has been more successful in this area is the one produced by Keck and Sikkink. 2 These authors develop the notion of transnational advocacy networks, which are "networks of activists distinguishable largely by the centrality of principled ideas and values in motivating their formation". (Keck, Sikkink 1998: p. 1) According to these authors, these kind of networks are affectimg the practice of national sovereignty by blurring the boundaries between a state's relations with its own nationals and the recourse both citizens and states have to the international system. Also these new transnational actors go beyond the aim of policy changes to advocate trascendental changes in the "institutional and principled basis of international interactions". (Ibid: p. 2) That is to say, they are contributing to change world politics rules.
These networks include those relevant actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse and dense exchanges of information and services. Also, such networks appear mostly in issue areas characterised by high value content and informational uncertainty. These non-traditional international actors succeed in mobilising information strategically to help create new issues and categories in order to persuade, pressure and gain leverage over much more powerful international actors as international organisations and governments. There is a double aim in this action: to influence policy outcomes and to transform the terms and nature of the debate. And even if they don't succeed, they are already relevant players in policy debates.
These network actors "frame" issues to reach broader audiences and to fit with favorable institutional values, they bring new ideas, norms and discourses into policy debates and serve as sources of information and testimony. They also promote norm implementation they pressure state actors for example, but also other kind of actors like transnational companies or international organizations to adopt new policies and they monitor compliance with international standards. By these actions they contribute to change the identities and interests of other actors, to change their procedures, policies and behavior. They are also political spaces in "which differently situated actors negotiate, the social, cultural and political meanings of their joint enterprises". (Ibid p. 3)
Keck and Sikkink import the network concept from sociology and apply it transnationally stressing the fluid and open relation between committed and knowledgeable actors working in specialised issue areas. These actors are suppossed to defend causes or propositions that cannot be easily linked to a rationalist understanding of their "interests". They have been particularly important in value-laden debates over human rights, the environment, women, infant health and indigenous people. In these cases large number of individuals situated in different contexts have become acquainted over a long time and developed similar world views. Having some of these individuals proposing strategies for political action around certain issues transforms their potential into a network action.
An interesting aspect of this process is that relationships among networks, are similar to domestic activism in social movements. Environmentalists and women's groups have looked at the history of human rights campaigns for model of effective international institutional building. Issues mix with each other in order to get effectiveness: indigenous causes, women or refugee issues get connected with environmental and human rights issues. All of them acquire an "NGO community identity".
This community shares information and generates it to launch their campaigns. It is their ability to generate information quickly and accurately and deploy it effectively their most important instrument and also central to their identity. For Gustavo Lins Ribeiro the information these networks need is so central to their functioning that they are highly dependent on communications to operate properly. Accostumed to networking in physical space and anxious to find effective means of communications and information much of these network actors found electronic networks to be another powerful and useful milieu for their organisation and political means. Networking in real politics seems to find an ideal mirror in the many possibilities of networking in cyberspace. Coalitions may be formed with various actors operating at different levels of agency, transnational communications and alliances can be effective with little or no control by nation-states. 3
Keck and Sikkink ar skeptical to the notion of these networks can be "subsumed under notions of transnational social movements or global civil society" because these would transform them only into 'enactors' of an increasingly homogeneous culture and political practices. Although I would agree with the notion that these networks are not 'enactors' I think these networks are part of an emergent transnational civil society. They represent the more active and 'empowered' part of the transnational civil movements that is reacting against the processes of economic globalization and their consequences.
IV. Civil society and networks in a continental perspective
Already from the time of the NAFTA negotiation, several sectors, particularly trade unions, got in touch with each other in order to get an imput in this process. These contacts increased after the treaty was approved and a network of networks and coordinating organizations was created, with RMALC (Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio) as the Mexican coordinator. 4
Besides these regular contacts, several events and conflicts in Mexico have given rise to big solidarity movements both in the US and in Canada but also in many other countries. One example of such solidarity is the one in support of the Zapatista demands in Chiapas. In this latter case it is interesting to notice that such a rebellion went soon beyond its original significance as a struggle for indigeneous rights to become a democratization crusade of the Mexican authoritarian state and then a world crusade against neoliberalism. It would be worth studying how this "intercontinental campaign" against the economic consequences of neoliberalism has appealed so many young people all over the world. Though their enthusiastic support of the Zapatistas, these young people have been able to organize two world meetings with several thousand participants (Chiapas 1997 and Spain 1998), several continental meetings (in Europe, Australia and South America) and multiple information and advocacy world wide networks that have in fact stopped the Mexican government from crushing this rebellion. 5
Other solidarity movements comprise the support of trade union struggles particularly those to force the Mexican government to comply with the NAFTA parallel agreements on Labor and Environment issues. The cases of the struggles for the right to free trade unions against Honywell, General Electric, Sony, and the Mexican ministry of the fish industry are only some examples. Even if the outcome of these struggles was not favorable to the workers (something which contributed to consider these parallel agreements as superfluous and irrelevant) the contacts established within the trade unions of the three countries are already a gain. They have helped several Mexican trade unions -mostly those within the independent, non-official sector- to engage in a long term relationship with several positive results as we shall presently see.
Environmental solidarity has also developed. One example is the "Tijuana-San Diego Environmental Committee" organized to stop the degradation of the environment that is taking place in this region as a result of the maquiladoras production. Another example is Sierra Blanca. This place, situated at 25 km of the border between Mexico and the US, within Mexican territory had been chosen to build a nuclear waste deposit. A well coordinated campaign organized by an alliance of Mexican and American environmental groups (the Binational Coalition against Nuclear Toxic Deposits, the Bravo River, International Ecological Alliance and the Legal Foundation for the Defence of Sierra Blanca) took the fight against the Texas state and the Mexican national goverment. Scientific arguments, legal claims, a publicity campaign and several civil resistance acts (human chains, trafic blockades) from both sides of the border succeded in stopping a project that seemed already decided by the top levels. 6 A victory of the civil society, of a transnational civil society.
In this way, the "regional civil society" is participating, is getting organized and most important of all it is planning common strategies to counteract the negative effects of this free-trade integration process. They are also producing documents with concrete proposals in every area: labour, industrial policies, trade, environment, women conditions, etc. However critical these proposals and views ar by no-means a "going back to protectionism" project. What they propose is a renegotiation of a bad treaty by a more constuctive and fair agreement. 7 They want an integration "from below" .
Perhaps the most recent example of these positions is the document released by the "Summit of the People of the Americas" gathered in Santiago de Chile in April 1998. This event took place as a parallel and protest meeting of Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTA) summit, the project sponsored by the American government. The People summit gathered several thousand participants from diverse movements and NGOs and produced a very critical document of the FTA project. It rejects the neoliberal economical design that is behind this free trade area project,, it stresses the negative consequences of neoliberalism for the countries involved. Finally it argues for an agreement that contains a social agenda to harmonize living standards and alleviate social costs of integration. It proposes a continental integration from below that respects a national sustainable development. Among the concrete proposal this document presents one of the most interesting is the one regarding gender issues. 8
An example of a transnational gender initiative
At the "Summit of the People of the Americas" another document was also produced: "Hacia una agenda Social Continental con Equidad de Género". ("Towards a Social Continental agenda within a context of Gender Equity"). 9 This was the result of the discussion within the forum dedicated to women issues. More than 200 women representing different organizations within the region (from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brasil, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua and border egion between Mexico-US and US-Canada-Quebec) participated in such a forum. Here it is worth to notice that the border regions of North America are identified as single geographical places not as countries. Also, within this transborder region a transnational organization was represented: the Coalition Pro-Justice in the Maquiladoras.
This document makes an analysis of the trends and impacts of the development model applied in the region. It identifies certain trends of this model that affect particularly women: an increasing sex segregated labor market, men's massive migration to the US as well as women's migrations to the cities with the difference that women take with them the whole family. To confront this situation the document proposes new alternative economic policies that take into account the impacts of such policies according to gender, ethnical and class factors. It also proposes a democratic participation of all sectors of society in the different commissions that deal with the process of economic integration and the application of international rules of conduct for transnational companies to respect. It demands that the countries' asimetric positions within the system should be taken into account, together with compensatory rules and funds.
The Mexican group emphasized on the problem of discrimination and equality as well as on the need of special gender approaches to all projects and programs of cooperation from the planning to the evaluation phase. They also emphasized the need to promote women's access to decision-taking organs and to productive resources and investment and the urgency of creating a continental women's network to monitor the effects of the hemispheric integration. 10
This is a relevant example of how certain issues and demands travel fast across regions and establish bridges of cooperation. But apart from documents it is perhaps even more relevant to look at concrete experiences of cooperation. How do these work? What problems they confront? What is the balance? This is what we shall try to answer by presenting some examples of such cooperation and networks regarding trade union women.
V. Transnational and transborder cooperation among women trade union movements: possibilities and problems.
The actions of the Comite Fronterizo de Obreras (CFO, Border Committee of women workers) in the maquiladoras at the border area between the US and Mexico, is one such example. 11 This group is an autonomous organization of maquiladora workers that aims to "improve workers conditions in the maquiladoras, the defense of basis human rights, specially those of women workers and the protection of their health, life and welfare". 12 They are a workers organisation without being a trade union, given the difficulties for trade unions to work in the maquiladora area. They try to raise consciousness among these workers of their rights and they consider themselves a NGO committed to the principle of social justice working on the principle of "grass-roots democracy". 13
If they are a Mexican NGO what makes them a transnational advocay network? A quick answer would be: their geographical area of action; the US-Mexican border. Although their range of action does not extend to cover the rights of the American workers on the other side of the border they have caught the attention and support of many American women and trade union organizations that have adopted their cause. In this sense they have developed contacts and even common strategies with American trade unions, like the United Steelworkers of America, the United, Auto Workers and United Electrical Workers (UE). They have also established strategic alliances with the American Friends Service Committee and with Human Rights Watch to gather information on pregnancy testing in the maquiladoras. As a result of the latter and other campaign denunciations together with pressure on NAFTA officials and committees, some major corporations like Delphi (a General Motors spin off), Lucent Technologies, ALCOA and General Electric have ended the practice of pregnancy screening.
In another campaign with the help of mass media, like European TV corporations, the practices of child labor in certain maquiladoras were denounced. As a result, the hiring of girls under the age of 16 was stopped. They have also produced reports on the impact of NAFTA on working conditions and on the lives of the maquiladora workers that have been presented to influential institutions and committees like the Trade Working Group of the US Congress, the US department of Labor, NGO communities in Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York. 14
As we have seen above, describing the transnational advocacy networks, the CFO uses well its resources regarding information gathering, strategic alliances with other advocacy groups (like those working on human rights issues) and pressure at various levels in order to attain its aims of improving workers conditions and influencing NAFTA policies. 15
Another transnational or regional network is the one established by the joint project and long-term cooperation between the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Mexican Network of Union Women. These contacts started in 1995 promoted by several Mexican NGOs working with women trade unionists from several key trade unions in Mexico. As a result of these contacts a strategic alliance was established and the Red de Mujeres Sindicalistas de México (Mexican Network of Union Women) was created in March 1997 with 52 members and a coordinating committee from 8 participating unions. 16 This cooperation has been regarded as very fruitful and both the Canadian and the Mexican women refer to it as a very positive experience: "it has been more than funding, with the opportunity for exchange and mutual learning"... "as union women, we feel that the support of the union is important, giving us confidence that we will not have to change our class-based vision as unionists". 17 According to the CAW organisers an important element for this success was "the commitment of the CAW to a longer term relationship with the Red, rather than one-time project funding". Moreover, the exchange developed according to the demands of the Mexican side and in addition to financial support, the CAW staff identified materials and contacts in Canada as well as assisting the Red to access financial resources for unforeseen aspects of the work. Also new opportunities for Mexican union women to participate in union events in Canada and the US opened up. In April 1998 two women from the Red were funded to participate in the people's Summit of the Americas, which was presented above.
This experience is not only a successful example of cooperation, it is also an example of empowerment techniques, of a non-paternalist or discriminatory relationship. Unfortunately not all examples of transnational cooperation have been so successful as we shall presently see.
"Yes, I think it is very important with solidarity and contacts, exchanges between trade unions of the three countries but then it is necessary to clarify, from the Mexican side, specially at the border region, which are the priorities, the interests, the needs and the strategies to follow before engaging our neighbours into any actions this side of the border". 18
Matilde Arteaga is one of the persons with knows most in Mexico about transnational civil society contacts, in particular in relation to women and trade unions. She is a 36 year-old trade-union activist who has been engaged in the formation of the RMALC, Red Mexicana frente al Libre Comercio, since 1989. But, most importantly, this leader has been particularly active in the organization of women groups within the FAT (Frente Autentico del Trabajo) and she is currently, since 1993, the main responsible within the FAT for those kind of activities. This has made it possible for her to combine both areas: international contacts and women issues in a very useful way. 19
According to this FAT leader exchanges of information and joint analyses with Canadian and American trade union groups started since the beginning of the 90s when NAFTA became a possibility for Mexico. Different groups in Mexico started to gather around the FAT in order to analyze the possible effects of a free trade agreement for Mexico. These discussions would eventually result in the creation of the RMALC in 1991. Canada's experiences where particular useful because they had already started to suffer the consequences a such a treaty with the US, and they were ready to share these experiences with their counterparts in Mexico.
"Solidarity is positive" Matilde admits, "but at the right moment". Three years ago, the FAT started to organize trade unions in different border cities. There was a positive experience in Tijuana, with the workers of a Korean factory, who after a long struggle got their FAT-affiliated trade union recognized by the Mexican authorities. However, according to Arteaga, many American advisors, lawyers, NGO's activists, etc, eager to intervene splitted the newly organized trade union provoking confusion and conflicts. The outcome was the usual: the factory owners closed the workplace and the workers lost their job. This is only one example but Arteaga can name many others in which foreign, mostly American "advisors (in general NGOs) adopt very paternalistic and even authoritarian attitudes based on their financial capacity, in their efforts to organize maquiladora workers. This has created enormous confusion and splitting conflicts among different groups of workers. In order to counteract this situation the FAT was promoting a national meeting of maquiladora workers where there would be a discussion of experiences, policies, strategies and priorities. This meeting was to be reserved only for Mexican workers although it admitted the possibility of international discussions with international participants immediately afterwards. This was part of the effort to consolidate the maquiladora worker's movement nationally, to define its identitity and to fight patterns of foreign paternalism which affect, according to Arteaga, specially women groups who have had no possibility of reflecting on their own interests and specificities.
Matilde Arteaga was also very active in introducing a general reflection on the impact of neoliberal policies on women's working conditions, on their access to public services and on their organization forms. These reflections focused also on the example of the maquiladoras which were considered the model that would be implemented in the rest of the country. The organizing of women groups led eventually to two national meetings of women from the FAT (from all over the country and from all sectors) and finally to the formation of the Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres del FAT. In this process, American and Canadian trade union women were invited as observers (in the first national meeting, in 1996, US female trade union representatives from ten different states were present) and a very fruitful exchange of experiences and information took place. Moreover, when the Coordinadora Nacional started planning strategic actions they decided to work on 4 areas, the fourth of which was "women-globalization and free trade-agreements".
As part of the action of this fourth area, Matilde Arteaga together with other FAT women leaders have been able to demand the incorporation of gender analyses into all free trade agreements. Already from 1992, women study circles within the FAT produced a written analysis of the expected effects NAFTA could have on women's situation in Mexico. These analyses continued and were integrated in the latest RMALC analyses and proposals on a democratic renegotiation of NAFTA (El TLCAN desde una perspectiva de género). 20 And as we have seen, even the People Summit meeting in Santiago in April 1998 had a gender-impact resolution of which Matilde Arteaga was one of the authors. She attended this meeting as representative of the Coordindora Nacional of FAT and RMALC.
These international contacts gave Matilde Arteaga the main responsibility for coordinating the Mexican participation in the "Women March year 2000". This worldwide event starting on the 8th March , 2000 will try to mobilize thousands of women marching through their countries and heading for New York, to the UN headquarters and for Washington to the World Bank main offices to protest for the impact of neoliberal reforms and debt problems in their countries. In order to ensure Mexican participation Matilde Arteaga is trying to put together different women organizations from different sectors and regions (from the "broad women movement") to organize this event. "Not an easy task" she admits but necessary in order to make some impact among the decision-makers.
Evangelina Corona, former leader of an important seamstress trade union during the 80s is also critical as to effectiveness of foreign solidarity, this time because of local NGOs. Her movement got organized and obtained a lot of international solidarity as a result of the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. Corona herself was invited to travel to the US, to the Philippines, etc. but many of the projects that sought and got financial resources in the name of the movement hardly reached the movement, they benefitted only the Mexican NGOs that acted as the trade union advisors.
"... pero, como 4 o 5 proyectos que para... en donde pedían dinero, &iecl;y pedían unas cantidades enormes! de (pelmazo) anduvieron mucho tiempo con eso."
P: ¿Y no hicieron esos proyectos con ustedes?
R: Nunca fueron de nosotros. Pidieron a nombre de las costureras para capacitación de mujeres especialmente para la capacitación de las costureras y nunca llegó a nosotros, a lo mejor el MAS pidió a nombre del MAS pero para apoyar a costureras.....
(There were about 4 or 5 projects for which they sought money, and they sought a lot of money, they dedicated a lot of time to that. Q: didn't they put these projects into practice with you? A: they were not our projects, they asked for money in the name of the seamstresses to train women, to train the seamstresses but it never came to us, perhaps MAS asked for the money in their own name but it was to support the seamstresses..) 21
This reflects other problems trade unions or other social movements have to solve, their relation with local and international NGOs. It is possible that a process of maturity of these movements must be attained before they engage in international contacts. It is also possible that they have to become self sufficient and less dependent of local and international NGOs even if the support of the latter can be important at certain stages. Networking should be in any case direct (like in the case of the Canadian CAW and the Red) not through intermediaries that can in fact frustrate and even stop completely the process. These are the experiences of some organizations but what about other women not directly engaged in this process?
VI. Integration and networks as possibilities at the individual level: some women views
How do other Mexican women not engaged in or informed on the activities and contacts we have just described think about integration, about its effects and perspectives? what do they know about international networks? what do they think of them? what are their views on globalization?
In this last section I have tried to gather some views of women engaged in several organizations, NGOs or movements (not necessary women organizations). These women are not linked directly to trade union movements or other organizations related with regional integration issues. 22 These interviews are part of those I carried out in different cities in Mexico a year ago within the framework of our project on women citizenship movements in Mexico today. One part of the interviews dealt with the external context, contacts, views and information, specially regarding NAFTA. In this section I try to give an overview of some of these opinions illustrated by relevant quotations.
The women whose views we refer to here are big city dwelers, they participate in some kind of local or national organization (or NGO) that fights for citizen rights, democratic change or other social issues. They belong to different social classes: workers, urban-popular sectors, middle class professionals or students. Their age varies from 22 to 50-60 years old). Their scholarity level varies as well enormously: from levels of incomplete primary shool to specialised professionals.
Although the views expressed here differ, according to the information, experience and level of scholarity of the person we have tried to sistematize some common positions. 23
It is also necessary to notice that NAFTA and regionalization are seen as concrete examples of globalization. Consequently, these women refer alternatively to any of these terms as equivalent.
When asked about NAFTA in general most (nearly all) of these women react immediately with very negative opinions regarding the treaty itself. They speak of the "unfair" terms in which Mexico has joined it and of the terrible impact the treaty has had for the country in general and for their local context in particular.
"El TLC fue un golpe mortal a México. Primero llegó el GATT como un castigo a los trabajadores, luego el TLC, lo peor que le pudo haber pasado a México.."(Cid39-60a) (NAFTA was a mortal blow to Mexico. First it was GATT that came like a punishment to Mexican workers, then NAFTA, the worst that could happen to Mexico)
"..a mí me parece &iecl;nefasto ! desde el punto de vista que es un tratado de libre comercio que está beneficiado a Estados Unidos y creo que lo tenían muy claro cuando lo firmaron tanto ellos como el Salinas acá ¿no?" (Cid5-43a) (I think it is very negative, from the point of view that it is a free trade treaty that is benefiting only the US and I think this was clear when they signed it, both them there and Salinas here...)
"En lo del TLC, lo que tengo de experiencia, tengo una amiga que trabaja en el TLC radicada en Dallas, para mí la fundamental estamos en desventaja en estos convenios, estamos perdiendo de todas, todas, porque ellos pusieron las normas y condiciones...."(Cid33-52a) (Regarding the TLC I have a friend who works within NAFTA, she lives in Dallas, for me the most important thing is that we are in disadvantage in these treaties, we're losing completely because they put the norms and the conditions...)
They refer to concrete results like the dissappearance of most small and middle-size local enterprises victims of the unfair competitition of imports. This affected specially middle class sectors.
"Ha venido a dar una ruptura de las micro y pequeñas empresas, inclusive en este pais al sustento económico de empresas familiares a ese grado...gente que tuvo muy buenas posiciones que en la actualidad estan vendiendo sus coches y estan cerrando sus fabricas, pequeños negocios y que andan manejando taxis, a ese grado, que la clase media fuimos golpeados y no estabamos preparados..."(Cid1-37a) (It (NAFTA) has represented a rupture for small and middle-size enterprises, even family enterprises, people who had before a very good economic position and that today are selling their cars, closing their factories, small businesses and that have to work driving taxi cabs, to that degree.. the middle class received a blow and we were not prepared..)
Another victim was the trade unions for whom NAFTA meant death.
"El sindicato murio con el TLC, amarró a los sindicatos y estos ya no pueden ofrecer nada...los unicos que pueden seguir son los sindicatos dependientes..."(Cid39-60a) (Trade unions died with NAFTA, it tied their hands and they (trade unions) can no longer offer anything to workers.. the only ones that can continue are the dependent (official) trade unions..)
Another woman points out at "new needs" created by the imported products that are not necessarily better than the Mexican ones but that increase their demand through marketing techniques.
"..fue para ellos porque nosotros nos volvimos más consumidores, se nos crearon necesidades que antes no teníamos, mira yo compro, por ejemplo, yo te lo voy a poner así, muchas amigas no compran en la tienda del ISSSTE que es ahorita la tienda más económica que hay para ir a comprar al super porque no hay marcas... entonces ya les crearon la necesidad de comprar una bola de..."(Cid17-34a) (...(the profit) was for them because we became more consumers, new necessities were created, necessities which we didn't have before, for example, I can put it like these: many of my friends don't buy any longer at the ISSSTE shop which is the cheapest because there are no 'brands' there.they have got new necessities to buy imported brands)
Some of these women refer to the maquiladoras as a very good example of workers exploitation, of the violation of human rights, but also as an instrument through which women workers got a consciousness on globalization, on their common interests on both sides of the border, establishing thus the basis for mutual solidarity.
Mira, yo pienso que bueno, para mí es una espada de dos filos las maquiladoras. Es cierto que vino a dar trabajo a mucha gente, pero a sí mismo las está hostigando, porque oye, te está marginando en tus derechos, porque tú como mujer para entrar en una maquiladora necesitas no estar embarazada, y eso es un derecho que se están violando, aparte cada tres meses están haciendo un estudio sistema están haciendo un estudio para que no te embaraces, y si estás embarazada vas para afuera, ahora te sangran, sí, es una esclavitud las maquiladoras porque es una bicoca lo que ganan porque son los sueldos muy bajos por eso están en México, si no son tontos, porque saben que la mano de obra aquí en México pues es muy barata a como es en Estados Unidos, que allá se pagan hasta 10, 12 dólares la hora, eso se los pagan en un día o en una semana aquí ¿sí? y si a eso le agregas todavía la violación de tus derechos, como poder ser madre,... (Cid2-55a) Look I think the maquiladoras are a two-edges sword, it is true they gave jobs to many people but at the same time they (the workers) are being harassed, they are violating their rights because as a woman, to work at a maquiladora you cannot be pregnant, and that is a right that is being violated, also every three months they are controlling you are not pregnant and if you have become pregnant you are fired, it's a slavery to work at the maquiladoras because they are payed very little, salaries are very low, that is why they are in Mexico, they are not fools, they know labour is very cheap in Mexico in comparison to the US, there they pay 10-12 doll per hour the same that they pay during a day or a week here and if you add to this the violation of your rights, like becoming a mother...)
"...yo creo que la, las mujeres han logrado establecer vínculos muy fuertes con organizaciones de mujeres del otro lado, Estados Unidos y Canadá, para lograr ir como desentrañando, ir viendo cómo se dan en este proceso de globalización y como está el TLC realmente no, no nos beneficia ¿no? no sólo para las mujeres si no que creo que en conjunto se han logrado como romper, creo que ésta es una ventaja de la globalización, que logró como romper este nivel primario de solidaridad ... se ha podido hacer un nivel inicial de solidaridad con mujeres de, del [país] del imperio, digamos ¿no? esa creo que ha sido una ventaja dada por este marco de la globalización ¿no?.." (Cid 18-40a) (I think that women have been able to establish strong links with women organizations on the other side, in the US and Canada to start understanding how does this process of glabalization is working and to see how this NAFTA is not good for us. I think this is an advantage of globalization, to break this primary level of solidarity to go into another level of solidarity with women of the empire, I think this has been an advantage given by the globalization framework..)
But also, as some of these women point out, being part of the treaty was part of the government's strategy to be considered as part of the first world. And this was very negative for the assistance international NGOs were giving to Mexico. These NGOs could no longer continue to work in a "first world country":
....y donde si nos pasó a amolar la firma del TLC o sea toda la expectativa que México se vuelve un país de primer mundo, eso nos arruinó a nosotros a las organizaciones que vivimos del apoyo externo, nos retiró apoyos, cuando de repente ya no somos un país del tercer mundo, somo un país del primer mundo entonces eso hay agencias que cambian su lineas se van a Africa,....(cid -10-11) this TLC really damaged us because of the expectation that Mexico was becoming a first world country, it damaged the organizations that live on external support, it took away this support because we were no longer a third world country, but a tfirst world country and several agencies change their lines and move to Africa....
Another issue these women point out to is the assymetrical relations between the three countries, assymetrical even among the NGOs. Besides, they say, the treaty has no legitimacy, people in Mexico were not taken into account during the negotiations and consequently it lacks popular support.
"(El TLC) pues es nefasto para nosotros, como vamos a competir con un tiburón,jamas, somo unos pecesitos tropicales ahi muy lindos no, que tienen una colita my bonita, pero para nada, aquellos son unos tuburonazos se han comido a paises que estan totalmente integrados como es Canada, como no nos van a comer a nosotros, seriamos sus criados pero para nada sus iguales, y tal vez eso lo vieron ellos al hacer el tratado, buscar siempre la ventaja y estos en secreto, sin consultar para nada con la gente aceptaron tonteria y media con tal de sentirse del primer mundo, que es una estupidez."(Cid7-58a) (The Treaty is very negative for us, how can we compete against a shark, we are very nice small fish, with beautiful tails but they are big sharks that have already eaten several countries that are totally integrated like Canada, how to avoid being eaten by them?. we could be their servants but not their equals and perhaps they saw this when they made the treaty, to think of their own advantages and these (Mexican negotiators) in secret, without consulting with anybody they accepted all this rubbish just because they wanted to be considered as part of the first world, that is stupid!)
No, pero la sociedad ni participa en lo que fue la ley de libre comercio, la sociedad se opuso y se firmó de todas [todas]¿no? Es decir, a la sociedad no se le dan posibilidades que diga qué tipo de ley de libre comercio querría, la sociedad ha tenido que aguantar eh... la reducción por ejemplo de determinados productos y nadie le ha dado chance de que se plantee de otra manera y no hay una integración de las sociedades... (Cid5-43a) (Civil society (Mexican civil society) didn't participate in the free trade law, civil society opposed it but it was nevertheless signed. That is to say, civil society has no possibility to say what kind of free trade law they would like, civil society had been forced to accept.. the reduction of some products and there has been no way to offer en alternative, there is no integration among civil societies...)
The loss of identity, of cultural traditions of the ancient heritage, specially among the younger generations is another of the aspects these women relate to NAFTA and to globalization in general.
El problema es que no sólo es una integración comercial, es un intento por integrarnos culturalmente tambien y yo de ahi o sea el peligro que veo es la pérdida... absoluta de nuestra identidad a nivel cultural, tradicional. común y generacional. o sea tal pareciera que el TLC no sólo implico la entrada de nuevos mercados, el desempleo sino tambien esta implicando la disolución de una identidad nacional pero tambien de una identidad como jovenes en un contexto que no es el contexto norteamericano.. la globalización pretende crear regiones localizadas desde mercado pero con una cultura homogenea, homogeneizar la cultura y la ideología.. y sólo la gente madura resiste..."(Cid8-23a) The problem is not only a trade integration, it is an effort to integrate us culturally, that is the danger I see, the loss.. the absolute loss of our cultural identity, our common traditions, generationally; NAFTA does not only imply the entrance to new markets, unemployment, it also implies the dissolution of our national identity but also of our identity as young people in a context that is not the North American context.. globalization tries to create market regions but with an homogenous culture, to homogeneize culture and ideology and only mature people resist..)
"...con eso de la globalización pues tú puedes estar en cualquier lugar del mundo y estás bebiendo lo mismo vistiendo lo mismo y cada día se va perdiendo más ese sabor de la cultura local ¿no? y ... "(Cid4.50a) (Because of globalization you can be anywhere in the world and you are drinking and wearing the same things and local culture is being lost more and more)
However, there are some positive aspects brought by globalization: global communication for example, and as we have already noticed a broad consciousness of how the system works and hence solidarity.
"También tiene sus ventajas porque pues podemos comunicarnos.....entonces también ahí esa parte pues son ventajas de la globalización,.."(Cid4-50a) (it (globalization) has also some advantages as we can communicate with each other.. these are also advantages of globalization..)
"..creo que ha sido una ventaja dada por este marco de la globalización ¿no? de analizar y reflexionar cómo se da el proceso de producción, el proceso de comercialización dentro de sus países, dentro de los de acá y tener como marco un seminario donde se pueda discutir y reflexionar sobre estas cosas y entender en esencia que pus hay como un enemigo o es... el mismo patrón es aquí y el mismo patrón es allá ¿no?"(Cid18-40a) (I think it has been an advantage given by this framework of globalization to analyze and reflect on how these processes of production and commercialization work within the countries, and to organise seminaries to discuss and reflect on these issues and to understand that we have a common enemy, the boss is the same here and there, isn't it?)
Regarding solidarity networks, although most women are positive to the creation or existence of such networks, not all have reflected on this being a possibility to counteract neoliberalism or free trade disadvantages for Mexico. But for many of these women, belonging to NGOs, international contacts, networks are synonims of financial support and information, of exchange of experiences. It is perhaps worth to notice that one of the following quotations comes from one of the leaders of the first women political organization that has recently obtained its official register as such (Diversa), a step before becoming a political party.
"...uno de los contactos muy importantes internacionales para las organizaciones en México, hoy en día y en el marco de una falta absoluta de dinero pues son los financiamientos, entonces generalmente muchos de esos contactos surgen básicamente de la necesidad de financiamientos o a partir de esa necesidad, entonces tú te vas enterando de otras organizaciones vas estableciendo contactos, pero si cualquier tipo de contacto, bueno no cualquier tipo, pero los contactos internacionales le dan fuerza a una organización y también te dan información, te hacen ver cosas que de otra manera no te enterarías.."(Cid 15-51a) In a context of scarcity of funds international contacts are important, they are born from the necessity of financial support, then you learn about other organizations, you establish contacts, all types of contact.. international contacts strenghten the organization and they give it information, they make you realize things that otherwise you could not learn.
".... y una de mis tareas centrales será las relaciones internacionales, sobre todo para conseguir recursos por que sino, no vamos a funcionar, recursos, relaciones, que la gente pueda viajar, intercambiar ...(nuestras lideres) son mujeres que necesitan entrar a cursos de capacitación muy fuertes, de formación muy fuertes, que necesitan tener intercambios con otro tipo de agrupaciones.."(Cid21-41a) .. (and one of my central tasks will be international relations to get resources, otherwise we won't be able to work, resources and relations so that people can travel, exchange.. (our leaders) they are women that need to enter into training courses, that need to get exchanges with other types of organizations.."
Other women see these networks as a useful instrument to get solidarity support for certain concrete events or struggles.
"..yo veo más bien estas redes no tanto para este propósito específico del TLC, sino estas redes ya existen y se dan para otros ámbitos por ejemplo, a qué me refiero, específicamente nosotros trabajamos con redes norteamericanas, canadienses para obtener apoyo para los Zapatistas, por ejemplo, y ahí he visto la solidaridad, el entendimiento profundo de la lucha Zapatista y el apoyo incondicional de todo tipo, sea con recursos económicos, sea a nivel de divulgación, sea nivel de presionar con sus propios políticos para saber qué está pasando en México, ..creo que ahorita es más factible que esta unión de redes en estos tres países Canadá, Estados Unidos y México con relación a luchas concretitas, aspectos específicos, pero no lo veo viable ahorita con relación al TLC,creo que ahorita es más factible que esta unión de redes en estos tres países Canadá, Estados Unidos y México con relación a luchas concretitas, aspectos específicos, pero no lo veo viable ahorita con relación al TLC,.."(Cid32-52a) (I see these networks not only in relation to NAFTA, these networks already exist and work in other areas, specifically, we work with American and Canadian networks to get support for the Zapatistas, for example. There I have seen the solidarity and deep understanding of the Zapatista struggle and the unconditional support by all kinds of means, financial or by spreading information or by pressing their own governments to know what is happening in Mexico.. I think this is more viable, the joint work of networks in these three countries, Mexico, Canada and the US in relation to concrete struggles, to specific aspects but not in relation to NAFTA)
"Sí, yo creo que sí, o sea, yo creo que ahí es donde ha faltado... mira, yo creo que un ejemplo de que sí se puede fue lo que pasó ahora con el basurero nuclear entre los dos países, o sea, que fueron organizaciones civiles las que del lado de México, tanto del lado de los Estados Unidos se juntaron...Yo creo que el pueblo en sí de los Estados Unidos no es tan mala onda, como el gobierno, o yo sé que el pueblo, dentro del pueblo hay, pues como en todo, gente que es más solidaria,.... igual los candienses, porque además la referencia es Estados Unidos, pero yo siento que Canadá podría aportar más, el pueblo de Canadá que tiene otra visión de las cosas, o sea, yo creo que el pueblo de Canadá no es tan... tan mercantilista ¿no? me da la impresión... que el pueblo de Estados Unidos (?) no son tan (?). Entonces es un apoyo que no hemos... explotado, ni con organizaciones civiles, yo no conozco ninguna organización..."(Cid 17-34a) Yes, I think this has been missing, an example is what happened with the nuclear waste deposit, between the two countries, there were organizations from both countries that got together...I think the people in the US is not so bad, among the people you can also find solidarity...the same as the Canadians and here is the reference to the US, they are not so mercantilists as the US people....it is a support we don't have tried not even with civil organizations,, I don't know any organization...."
However, there are also problems. Some of these women see that even relations among NGOs of the three countries of the region are assymetrical and that American NGOs (but also those of other first world countries) tend to "dictate their conditions for collaboration".
"..no hay el mismo nivel de interlocución ni siquiera entre las ONG's. Es decir, cuando yo propongo un proyecto junto con otras ONG's norteamericanas, yo no estoy nunca al mismo nivel de decisión que las norteamericanas, es decir, no nos vemos como iguales, no nos tratamos como iguales en ese sentido puede haber, se pueden establecer redes efectivamente de colaboración para el cuidado del medio ambiente pero son redes que van a funcionar eh... yo creo que manteniendo esa separación "yo estoy en Estados Unidos y tú estás acá, yo te ayudo o yo te propongo", pero finalmente no veo la posibilidad de que tres organizaciones por ejemplo, una de cada país pudiera considerarse una sola organización que atiende tal problema ...(Cid5-43a) (There is not the same level of dialogue even among NGOs. When I propose a project together with other American NGOs I'm never at the same level of decision as the Americans are, we don't see each other as equal, we don't give each other the same treatment. We can establish collaboration networks to take care, for example of the environment but these networks will always work taking into consideration this division: 'I'm in the US and you are here, I help you' but finally I don't see any possibility that these three organizations, one in each country, can act as a single one to take care of the problem..)"
...por eso digo otra vez el asunto del poder, o sea como ejercen el poder y... no, o sea, el imponer como posturas, eso, eso yo creo que eso es lo que no ayuda mucho ¿no?" (Cid6-26a) (We come back to the issue of power, of how this power is exercised, how it imposes positions and that doesn't help very much, or does it?)
On the whole and in spite of all these effects and problems most women agree that Mexico cannot isolate itself from globalization although one can negotiate other terms of integration and take advantage of the possibilities globalization offers (as we have already noticed above).
"... es parte de la globalización en las necesidades mundiales que no podemos quedar excluidos... no cerrarnos al TLC, pero, con mejores condiciones porque no hay una posición política adecuada." (Cid1-37a)(Globalization is part of a world process, we cannot remain excluded.. not to close us to NAFTA but in better conditions because (nowdays) there is not an adequate policy in this sense).
It is necessary to look at these views as they perhaps reflect a broader public opinion than that of those dealing directly with transnational networks and alternative proposals. As we have seen, for these women, regional integration, as implemented by NAFTA is totally negative. It has meant several losses for the Mexican economy without any visible economic compensation and at other levels it implies certain risks like cultural homogeneization, the end of the local cultures and traditions. These women feel the impact of integration, reflect on the unequal terms of association but only few among them have grasped the possibilities of transnational networks, of an integration from below. Those who have grasped it are the ones with a certain NGO experience. These are the ones who associate international contacts with the possibility of financial sources but also of valuable exchange of information of experiences. They see this as a possibility of empowering their organizations. There are however several problems. One of them is the power assymetry among organizations from different countries but specially the relationship with American organizations as the Canadian ones are assumed be less patronizing than the American ones. If this has to do with the traditional Mexican suspiciousness towards Americans or from concrete experiences it is difficult to decide. The fact is that we see a similar pattern to the one observed before regarding trade unions. And this can be a problem if a trinational civil society -with trinational advocacy networks- is to be created. Nevertheless most of these views also refer to the advantages of globalization, like an open communication, a greater understanding of common problems. Possibilities and risks, what will be the final balance?
Ten or fifteen years ago for most of the population in México the concept of globalisation, regionalization was completely unknown, it had no meaning in their realities. The national state was their universe, the giver or the enemy, the almighty against which it was nearly impossible to fight. The situation has changed radically in these years, not only has the international influence become more concrete but the people, civil society has started to react against a state that seems weaker and increasingly impotent in many spheres.
The 1990s is the decade of the awakening of Mexican civil society. However, as they started to participate the citizens discovered the enemy was no longer national, it was international and difficult to grasp and the struggle demanded coordinated actions with other citizens of other countries in order to have some success. Globalization brought burdens but also possibilities, new ways of communication, new hopes of solidarity. And this was specially important for women who traditionally have less access to public and international organizations than men.
As we have seen, many organized women took the chance, cooperation has advanced, networks have been formed, projects accomplished, solidarity established and many success stories regarding network performance can be accounted for. However not all experiences are positive, asymetric relations remain and this creates also dependent relations: Mexican organizations that cannot survive without external support. That is perhaps why the relations that have succeeded best are those with the less asymetric of the partners: Canada-Mexico. The movements themselves have to find their own identity, have to mature before engaging in a deeper international cooperation as the maquiladora example shows. And many women. even those already engaged in different movements, have to find their way to these international contacts and establish networks that benefit all parts.
Can we speak of a new regionalism from below? Of a trinational civil society? Of trinational advocacy networks? I think we can, this civil society is perhaps only starting to get organized, to acquire conciousness of its possibilities but the potential is there and it has many ways of development. The process is just starting but it is there and hopefully it will sooner or later impact the projects dictated from above. It is the response from below.
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Part of the material used in this paper was obtained from a research project financed by SIDA-SAREC, the Swedish International development Agency.
E-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Back.
Note 2: See: Clyde Mitchell, 1973"Networks, Norms and Institutions" in Network Analysis ed, Jeremy Boussevain and J. Clyde Mitchell, the Hague:Mouton. Also: International Social Science Journal, "Social and Cultural Aspects of Regional Integration", March 1999. Back.
Note 3: Gustavo Linz Ribeiro,1998 "Cybercultural Politics: Political Activism at a Distance in a Transnational World", in Cultures of Politics, Politics of culture ed. Alvarez Sonia, Dagnino Evelina and Escobar Arturo. Westiview Press, 1998. Back.
Note 5: I was myself able to attend some of these meetings and witness the energy and enthusiasm of these groups.The crusade against neoliberalism has somehow replaced, among many young anarchistic and leftist oriented circles, what communism and socialism were as projects for the 68 generation. Back.
Note 7: See "NAFTA" in South Letter, Winter 1992-1993. p. 12. Also: interview with Bertha Lujan of the Mexican "Red de Acción" against NAFTA. Apart from the social agenda these groups press for an ecological chapter and supranational bodies to supervise its fulfillment. Back.
Note 11: Maquiladoras are assembling factories owned by US, European or Asiatic firms that import their raw materials, technology and other components from the US and use Mexican cheap labour. They export directly their products back to the US without paying any import or export taxes. Their production goes from textiles to electronic equipment but also a great deal of chemical products. Back.
Note 12: Report of activities of the CFO (1998-1999), Mimeo 1999. One group of the Comite de Obreras from the border areas was invited to the 1994 Women Conference in Pekin by some American women groups. The CO group travelled as part of the American delegation. Back.
Note 15: One can even regard the whole wole arrangement of parallel agreements on Labour and Environment issues within NAFTA as a result of American advocay ntworks lobbying for compensatory mechanisms to regional free trade. Back.
Note 19: The FAT is one of the few autonomous trade unions that survived the long period of state monopoly on trade union organizations. Nowdays it is one of the most prestigious and strongest independent trade unions in Mexico. Back.
Note 21: Interview with Evangelina Corona, Jan 1999.MAS (Mujeres en acción sindical) is a well known Mexican NGO that has been working for a long time trying to organize women within trade unions.See above the chapter: La mitad del cielo: a project of cooperation... Back.
Note 22: Examples of such organizations: "Ciudadanas en Movimiento por la Democracia" (CDM), Organización Ciudadana por los Derechos de la Mujer, Alianza Cívica, Las Brujas, Diversa, Red de Salud de la Mujer, Frente Zapatista, Mujeres para el Dialogo. Back.
Note 23: After each quotation we identify the interview by its code: its number and the age of the interviewee after the dash: for example: Cid39-60a means the person is 60 years old. Also: after each quotation in Spanish we put within parentheses our translation into English. Back.