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BLOG: Youth activism: bringing resilience to the fight against inequality

By Irlanda Agraz Arellano | 26 August 2020

Before anything, I’d like to tell you who I am. I’m a 25-year old Mexican woman that has lots of concerns regarding her future and security. I’m considered “middle class” and I’ve been highly privileged in lots of aspects. 

I can’t speak on behalf of all young activists out there because that would be imprecise and unfair, but I want to pitch in and speak out about my own experiences and convictions. As a young woman, I have seen and experienced patriarchy in many forms. However, connecting with other young people made me realize that this is a systematic social problem. It keeps women - especially young women of color - “in their place” through sexism, homophobia, violence against women and LGBTQ+ people, and other forms of aggression  aimed to make us silent and submissive. As a young woman, this is my fight - our fight - to dismantle the patriarchy. We are claiming our rightful place in the movement - at the frontlines, in leadership roles, in spaces where we can create positive change not just for myself but for many women in Mexico and beyond. So that’s our fight as women.

Does adulting seem like an unattainable goal? I certainly do feel like it. I have never truly felt like an adult because I grew up with the idea that being a grownup meant emotional and economic stability. It meant having bought a house, working a 9-to-5 job, preparing to form a family and having a secure future. But now, as I get closer to my thirties, buying a house seems like a joke. The actual thought of having a family and bringing up children in an uncertain world frightens me. My own future frightens me, and I know we are all sharing the same fear or are beginning to do so this year. And then again, the idea of adulting is so centered on capitalist ideas that we should be defined by what we own and what we can buy. We need to break free from capitalism and live a life where we are not defined by the brands we wear or our zip codes. That’s our fight  being part of this young generation.

I’ve read and heard that some call us a snowflake generation. If we are acting like ‘snowflakes’ it is because decision makers -- people before us and people in power right now -- have made our possibilities frail. The truth is that we are a strong and resilient generation, because even though we know our futures aren’t safe, we keep fighting. We work on ourselves, we are breaking patterns, we are changing the ways life that have been in place for decades.

Young inequality activists are leading the fight and we are taking the current global crisis as an opportunity to turn things around. Here in Mexico, the Women's Rights movement increased its energy and participation by women from all walks of life have never been bigger. As FIA Mexico, we organized a protest in Guadalajara during January’s Global Protest to Fight Inequality, exchanging information and experiences about the spiral of violence that women suffer in our country. Activists from different organizations united to discuss and recognize how our different fights related and must stick together to fight the alarming increasing numbers of femicides that occur every day. We envisioned the changes that must be made in order to guarantee women’s safety and freedom.

Later in March, as part of International Women’s Day, women, girls, mothers, daughters, friends, participated in a never-seen-before protest. Here’s a video of Mexico City’s march, where around 80,000 women mobilised on the streets and called for justice and freedom. In Guadalajara, the city where I live, the number reached around 35,000 people and you can see really powerful pictures here. We painted the streets, chanted, and marched for those who couldn’t, shouting their names so that they are never forgotten. We protect each other even if the state doesn’t, wouldn’t. 

We are finally being heard and more women are joining the fight, because we have taken the lead by using social networks and technology, art, reliable information, resilience and empathy to reach out to people that we never thought would be part of our movement. There may be doubts in the minds of older generations on our ways and means as we try to take back our future, but we believe in ourselves and support each other. Solidarity networks have risen and the wave of change is getting stronger, not only for women’s rights movement but for the environment, diversity and inclusivity, mental health activism, and others. 

We are bringing empathy and solidarity to the revolution. We have no interest in selfishness and individualism. Our work revolves around community, being highly aware that we must change the way we relate to nature and to each other. We focus on shifting power and strengthening those who have not been considered before as they should. That’s what fighting inequality is about. 

Maybe, you may see our fight as different than yours. Nevertheless I’m going to support you in any way I can: sharing your stories, informing myself, protesting by your side, and questioning the system that is repressing your community. This happens every day between young activists and those who we are reaching. Then, we come to understand that our fights are interconnected. So your fight becomes my fight: it becomes our fight for a more equal and fair world. 

That’s why keeping the Fight Inequality Alliance moving is fundamental. Over the last month, national, regional, and global gatherings of the alliance took place. Even though we couldn’t physically be together, we overcame and learned how to do this virtually.  Youth participation and international solidarity fostered by global meet-ups like this, albeit online, is crucial in the fight against inequality. As one united movement, we are identifying needs that haven’t been fulfilled with current systems as well as the damages that capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism have provoked in our ways of living, while also giving solutions. In the gatherings, we have learned that solidarity and inspiration not only happen physically, but also through a screen if the message is powerful enough. There are few platforms where youth are taken seriously. Because of this, we need to keep sharing our ideas and struggles in safe spaces such as this.

We were born in a world that has been neglected for so long that transformation seemed unimaginable. But if we are to survive, we must simply make change happen. This year has opened a window in which it is possible. Please join the fight, support and reach out to young people and activists because they know what it is like to live in uncertainty and they are more resilient than what we give them credit for. Learn from these movements and listen to their demands.  We will lead these changes and find new ways of fighting inequality. From different fronts, we are observing, questioning, representing and resisting. We are empathetic enough to explain and welcome everyone because all of us are part of this fight.

Irlanda Agraz Arellano is a feminist and a member of Fight Inequality Alliance based in Guadalajara, Mexico. You can follow her on Twitter @irlanda_13.