I frequently enjoy reviewing some processes of law-making, more out of idleness than obligation. I imagine it is part of the unbridled curiosity we all should have. Not long ago I stumbled upon a few new developments regarding the legislation to protect women who have been victims of gender-based violence, children, and migrants. Sparked by what I was able to read an idea got fixated in my mind: laws are not walls in which one or several realities can be contained, and that it is perfectly fine to create laws and enforce them, but before worrying about laws we should worry about education.
For many years I have made a living working with “disadvantaged groups”, for lack of a better term. We established a home shelter for HIV positive pregnant minors in Mexico. It was quite a difficult endeavor performed in concert with many professionals (doctors, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and lawyers). We started working on the streets, in the Merced area, talking with prostitutes to earn their trust and to be able to ascertain if the carnets hanging around their necks, which certified them as “healthy women”, were veracious and not falsifications illegally procured by their “pimps”.
As so a world was unveiled to us where certain “homeless” girls were prostituted for a wretched payment and, as if that condition wasn’t bad enough, they also had HIV and were pregnant. Needless to say, reality surpasses fiction by far, and we had that experience as evidence… We had to draw from all the resources we had at the time, knock on many doors, and pray to be listened to, but unfortunately there are realities actively kept in secret. After a long time, we were able to get support from the Federal District (now Mexico City) Government to procure housing, and through some donations we were able to shelter fourteen young women that direly needed attention and love.
The road for these women is quite long, and it begins precisely thanks to these new laws that contemplate them as victims, and thereby as people lacking protection
Subsequently, when I moved to Spain, I volunteered for over a year to work with battered women, not only physically but also psychologically mistreated. I aided these women and their children, kids that came with them to a shelter of the Council of the city I lived in, where medical care and psychological aid was provided, in a rather superficial manner, since this was emergency housing.
Further along I was lucky enough to work for an organization that does this work in quite a structured manner. The professionals that work there have a theoretical model available that has been established and adapted in the organization to relate to the people in need of help. A model that allows them to be quite objective, without forgetting that the material they work with are people (actually, the tagline is: “people that help people”). Therefore, Berriztu has the capacity to offer women and children, victims of gender violence, the chance to feel secure and accompanied.
The experience of working there for the first time was profoundly intense for me, because it shook much of what I had already “learned” in Mexico. Moreover, it allowed me to understand what it means to unlearn and “walk again” on the road, and to realize that all of this is a personal process, that authentically allows for the new to really be the foundation of a better future.
Laws are not walls in which one or several realities can be contained, and it is perfectly fine to create laws and enforce them, but before worrying about laws we should worry about education
It goes without saying that I am infinitely grateful to them for letting me be a witness of the endeavor carried out by professionals, since this process is absolutely gratifying. Talking with the women that not long ago did not have one whit of self-love, that continuously felt threatened and that are now Women, Workers, Mothers, recovered people.
The road for these women is quite long, and it begins precisely thanks to these new laws that contemplate them as victims, and thereby as people lacking protection. I have the certainty that the moment they arrive at a shelter as the one offered by Berriztu, they already have gone through the worst part of their lives: the part where they accept their condition as victims and allow for aid to be given. This realization is a basic precondition to be able to help, and as researchers and professionals we always need to be given access to their deepest, darkest corner, otherwise it is impossible to do anything.
It is true that the laws have helped this hard process to be overcome, albeit it is true that reality tends to surpass fiction, it is also indisputable that reality overpasses itself thanks to learning, to education, and care
It is always procured that their stay in the shelter be as comfortable as possible, that women have enough privacy to function on their own; nonetheless, cohabitation is difficult. Sharing the house with six or more families can be chaotic and, as is natural within these circumstances, the worst of each comes to light, always using children as a protecting shield. But not everything is harmful or pernicious here. We try to give each family a structure: there are rules, schedules, activities and even leisure time. Everything in its appropriate moment, always under the guardianship of professionals that work arm in arm with these women and their children to make do.
It is true the laws have helped this hard process to be fulfilled, albeit it’s true that reality tends to surpass fiction, it is also indisputable that reality overpasses itself thanks to learning, to education and care.
Is a Mexican living in Euskadi because of those things of love. Ethnohistorian from the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), with postgraduate studies at the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), in relation to Religious Anthropology. She currently works in a juvenile justice center specialized in child-parent violence.