Gender and Violence in the Experiences of Central American Women: Migration As a Coping Strategy?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 17:00
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Susanne WILLERS, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico
Neoliberal reforms and economic crisis have strong impact on Central American post-civil war countries and contribute to increasing violent societies. Countries like Honduras and El Salvador have today one of the highest murder rates of the world. Gang violence and organized crime affect gender relations in a special way, endangering the lives of women and limiting their working opportunities. Under this conditions, migration becomes one of the most important strategies for social reproduction. Each year there is an increasing flow of women leaving Central America countries, looking for work opportunities abroad in order to sustain their families.

My paper is based on a field work- study in two Mexican border towns, Tijuana in the North and Tapachula on the Mexican South. It focuses on the experiences of women during transit migration through Mexico and on the strategies Central American women adopt in order to realize their migration projects. It takes into account how the different forms of violence in the origin, transit and destiny converge by reconstructing women’s migration trajectories from a biographical perspective. This reconstruction challenges classical categories of migration studies and shows how social, structural and gendered violence affect women’s migration projects and migrant’s social networks. In reference to the model of analysis of Sarah Mahler and Patricia Pessar´s (2003) “gendered geographies of power” of the migration process, I want to show that migration itself is an answer to recurrent experiences of violence and an important aspect of women’s agency in this specific context.