Missing But Not Forgotten

red mesa

It’s 5 a.m. in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Young women in their late teens and early twenties are on their way to work at assembly plants, or maquilas‬. Unfortunately, some of them won’t make it, because they will have been tortured, murdered, and abandoned on the way. Hundreds have simply “vanished” yet Mexican authorities have done nothing.

“Every day I wake up and receive text messages, emails, and phone calls about something that happened the night before,” said Imelda Marrufo Nava, Coordinator of longtime Global Fund for Women grantee partner, Red Mesa de Mujeres. Imelda organizes and trains women from Ciudad Juárez‬ to lobby for government policies to protect women’s human rights.

Holding On To Her Passion

Known as one of the most murderous cities in the world, violence against women has been on the rise in Ciudad Juárez since the early nineties when maquilas were popping up everywhere. In 2001, the bodies of eight women were found in a cotton field, prompting Red Mesa de Mujeres to write a report to the International Commission on Human Rights about the situation in Juárez. Since then, 600 women have been killed and at least 3,000 are missing.

Imelda Marrufo Nava, Red Mesa de Mujeres.

"Despite these situations I have kept this passion, this commitment to work for women's rights in Juárez because I love my city,” said Imelda. “My love for the city, the people, and the history is what keeps me here."

Red Mesa de Mujeres dedicates a lot of its efforts keeping women who are fighting for justice safe. Due to increased violence against women in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, Global Fund general support grants cover basic security costs for women’s human rights defenders. In fact, just last year we sent an emergency grant to Red Mesa de Mujeres to help move sisters Olga and Marisela Reyes Salazar to a more secure location after their quest for justice put them at high risk.

"In Juárez, there are some faces such as the Salazar sisters who are very visible because they have lived injustice,” explained Imelda. “But there are also many women who, for their own choice, have not denounced the violence and hostility [directed] at them and their families. They have decided to do this to stay alive so they do not continue to be attacked.”

Changing Faces

Imelda and women like her demand that governments conduct serious, professional investigations into the murders. They march, demonstrate, sit vigil, and spearhead letter-writing campaigns to educate people and foster solidarity with the women of Juárez.

"I know [our work] makes a difference because I see it in the faces of the women we work with,” said Imelda. “Their serious faces and hostile expressions transform into smiles and loving expressions once we begin the process of intervention.”

The untold stories of women who live with the constant threat of violence due to the economic and political interest of a few is why Global Fund supports women’s groups that are challenging governments on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I know we are making a difference because we are a part of a movement much bigger than this city or this country, because when we meet with partners from Latin America and with organizations and foundations in solidarity with us, like Global Fund for Women, we know we are making a difference."

Story Behind the Reyes Salazar Family

Olga and Marisela Reyes Salazar come from a family of activists, many of whom have been assassinated for defending their rights. Their sister, Josefina Reyes Salazar, was one of the first women activists to denounce the femicides in Juárez and give support and voice to families of the deceased. She succeeded in detaining a man who raped and murdered two women and after, unknown assailants shot at her house while she and her children were inside. From that point on, the entire Reyes Salazar family became targets. Julio César Reyes was the first of six members of the family to be murdered. In 2010, Josefina Reyes Salazar was assassinated. In August of that same year, Josefina's brother, Rubén, was assassinated, after publicly denouncing her murder. That’s when Marisela and Claudia Reyes Salazar, Josefina's sisters, demanded justice. Later that year, the bodies of their family members were found, all bearing evidence of torture. Since then, family graves have been vandalized. Currently, twenty members of the Reyes family live in exile and other members are dispersed in different parts of the country.


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