By Rose Palmer
“Ni una menos
Vivas nos queremos”
“Not one less
We want us alive”
With beating drums and flags flying high, this was the cry of the thousands of marchers I joined in the streets of Buenos Aires to protest violence against women in Argentina.
Women, men, young and old all turned out for the third annual march of #NiUnaMenos, a movement dedicated to fighting gender inequality and the abuse and murder of women. The slogan translates as “not one less”, meaning that every woman (and not one less) should be alive rather than dying at the hands of men. The group states that they are “giving a voice to those who can no longer shout”.
The Ni Una Menos movement was born in 2015 and has been gaining momentum ever since. For good reason – the statistics make harrowing reading. Between January and May this year, 133 women were murdered in Argentina. And the number of femicides is increasing year on year. It’s estimated that a woman is killed every 30 hours in the country and more than 60% of these crimes are perpetrated by a husband, boyfriend or ex-partner. Shockingly, in a quarter of cases the victims had previously complained to authorities.
I joined the march with a group of women from Villa Soldati, one of the poorer neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires where violence and crime are all too common. These inspiring women run a weekly show on their community radio station called Mujeres en Acción (women in action), which discusses the problem of machismo in Argentine society.
Mercedes, a medical student who presents the show, told me: “Marching is important because it shows society that we are organised in this fight for a common good, it allows us to continue adding more people to fight for our rights, and it makes you part of the fight for freedom of the oppressed people.”
She added: “Every time I march I feel full of hope, of joy and I realise that I am not alone, and that I do not want to be. That’s why every day I try to add another woman to this fight.”
It was spectacular to see the streets of central Buenos Aires awash with colourful signs; some celebratory but the majority angry, denouncing machismo and patriarchy. Amongst the vibrancy of the banners, some protesters carried pictures of mothers, daughters, nieces and cousins who have fallen victim to violence – a poignant reminder of why these demonstrations are so crucial.
The Ni Una Menos movement started in 2015 when a group of journalists organised a march to protest against the death of a teenager who was found buried in her boyfriend’s garden. Journalist Marcela Ojeda challenged women with the historic tweet: “They are killing us: Aren’t we going to do anything?”. The response was overwhelming. 200,000 people, mainly women, gathered in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.
There have been several events since the first gathering of Ni Una Menos and each is different. At this year’s event, we made our way from the National Congress along to the iconic Plaza de Mayo where an urgent list of demands to the state was read out. These included protection for women affected by violence, publication of official statistics on femicide and the legalisation of abortion.
This was the second women’s march I’ve been to in Buenos Aires. On International Women’s Day earlier this year I joined a diverse crowd of thousands in the streets. I remember seeing a woman staring out into the street with tears pouring down her face. She looked so distraught I was worried she may have been attacked. But when I went over to check she was OK, she told me: “I’m just overwhelmed by the support that we have here.”
Although the marches have been different, the messages are the same: end the rape and torture of women and end gender discrimination and inequality.
Photos from the march on International Women’s Day and the third anniversary march of Ni Una Menos.