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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Op-ed: Why I remain hopeful for Mexico’s first female president

Claudia Sheinbaum smiles for a photo. Sheinbaum was elected Mexico’s first female president June 2. Photo courtesy Rodrigo Jardón, Wikimedia Commons.

Claudia Sheinbaum was recently elected president of Mexico June 2, becoming the first woman to hold this coveted position. Considering the country’s long-standing history of sexist ideals, many Mexican women, including myself, were in disbelief. 

Sheinbaum’s election, first and foremost, symbolizes a pushback against Mexico’s longstanding “macho,” or sexist, society. 

Mexico is a dangerous place for women, let alone women in power. Among its many problems, Mexico faces one of the worst rates of femicide of any country. Experts and advocates say that the rampant killings of women are due to cultural machismo, domestic violence and as a justice system with various prejudices that work against women. In a place where a woman’s right to life isn’t guaranteed, Sheinbaum serves as a symbol of resistance against the many problems Mexican women face.

Sheinbaum’s election in and of itself is proof of progress toward gender equality. Women’s political participation in Mexico has greatly improved since 2002, when federal congress passed a gender quota law. The law prohibited political parties from having over 70% of their electoral candidates from the same gender. The quota system became a constitutional reform in 2019, requiring gender parity in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Now, 50% of lawmakers in Mexico’s lower house of Congress are women.

Hopefully, having a female president will broaden views of women in leadership positions — and research even shows that women leaders tend to push for more policies that support women, children and social welfare. 

However, many have become fearful that Sheinbaum’s election only holds symbolic value and no political merits. Sheinbaum’s election is quite controversial, and I don’t seek to explain what her presidency might mean for issues such as organized crime and the danger of authoritarianism. Rather, I hope to show that her presidency has the potential to improve women’s plight. 

Recent history in Mexico has shown that women-supporting policies championed by female leadership do not always translate into a better quality of life. Between 2014 and 2018, the Mexican government made many pushes toward gender equality. Still, the reality of life in Mexico for women stayed the same. As measured by the World Economic Forum, Mexico remained one of the countries with the lowest ranking in terms of gender equality.

In addition, many doubt Sheinbaum, pointing to the fact that she is former President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s “puppet,” who has done arguably nothing positive for women’s rights during his six-year term and has even received backlash for being sexist. However, this doubt is quite ironic, as Sheinbaum is her own person and has shown that she is capable of deviating from AMLO’s questionable political views.  

While these skepticisms are warranted, we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss Sheinbaum. Despite the difficulty of challenging the structures of a misogynistic country, female leaders have enacted changes. For example, Supreme Court President Norma Lucia Pinã declared all federal and state laws that prohibit abortion unconstitutional. When Piña took office, she promised to include women’s rights in her agenda, and she has been able to do so. There is no reason Sheinbaum can’t do the same.

In running for office, Sheinbaum has made some promises for women’s rights. She has outlined a vision for creating a “national care system” to establish nurseries, nursing homes and sick care facilities to alleviate the burden of unpaid care work (carried by women). Sheinbaum said she would replicate some of the measures she implemented as mayor of Mexico City, such as appointing a prosecutor dedicated to femicides and enforcing a law to remove domestic abusers from their homes.

I know that Sheinbaum has innumerable challenges to face, and I am aware that the tenure of one female president can’t carry the burden of generations of sexism. 

Regardless, I remain hopeful. 

I remain hopeful for a variety of reasons. First, I will not subjugate her to the same judgment she needs to work against. I will not criticize her more harshly because she is a woman — Mexico’s negative biases against female leaders are nearly double those of the U.S. or Canada. Second, I will not give up hope because there hasn’t been change in the past, for that would be counterproductive. Third, I will continue to believe in what may seem impossible.

If you had told me as a young girl that a woman would be the president of Mexico, I would not have believed you. Sheinbaum has proved what I once believed impossible, and I will continue to believe in nothing less than impossibility.

Galiah Abbud is a second-year journalism and philosophy combined major and deputy opinion editor of The News. She can be reached at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Galiah Abbud
Galiah Abbud, Deputy Opinion Editor
Galiah Abbud is a second-year journalism and philosophy major. She currently serves as opinion editor. She is eager to learn from her peers and continue the dedicated work of The News.
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