This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pranav Jeevan P. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“Mexico’s Shaheen Bagh”: The Occupy Protest Against Femicide

More from Pranav Jeevan P

An occupation protest that happened in Mexico last year on the issue of rising femicides didn’t get the attention it deserved in the media.

Last year we witnessed a lot of occupation protests from Shaheen Bagh to Farmers’ occupation of Delhi borders. Just like those in Shaheen Bagh, this occupation protest in Mexico was led by women. It started with the spontaneous takeover of the Office of Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) in response to rising femicides in Mexico.

Femicides In Mexico

femicide victims
Crosses in the city of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, were placed in the spot where 8 victims of femicide were found in 1996. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Eleven women are killed in Mexico every day. Femicide rates have increased in Mexico each year for over a decade. Their characteristics are consistent and gruesome, with many cases where perpetrators have mutilated and abused their victims’ bodies, then disposed of them on roadsides or in fields.

Over 66% of Mexican women report having experienced some type of sexual violence. Victims find themselves caught in an endless bureaucracy where they are denied justice for years and 98% of all reported crimes go unresolved. The COVID-19 pandemic saw a 71% increase in reports of domestic violence and has created further difficulties for women seeking justice through the legal system.

Okupa Cuba Casa Refugio

The Human Rights Commission was supposedly there to protect women, but their frustration over its failed justice system resulted in the women realising that the government wasn’t going to help them. They decided to take matters into their own hands, which led to the unprecedented event in world history where women occupied a government building.

On 2 September, 2020, two women refused to leave the office building to protest the lack of progress in their respective cases, a murder and sexual assault. They requested local activists for support and dozens of feminist collectives arrived outside the building led by anarcho-feminists wearing black balaclavas who call themselves Bloque Negro (Black Block).

They occupied the pavement outside the building and wrote up a list of demands. With support from the feminist organisation Ni Una Menos (Not One Less), they took over the building on 4 September. They forced themselves into the building and asked the remaining workers and guards to leave.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2019 march in Mexico City in front of Palacio Bellas Artes.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2019 march in Mexico City. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

More and more women across various collectives joined, putting their bodies in line with the women inside. As the word spread, supporters began bringing bags of donated clothes, food, diapers and toiletries, which the women passed out to local families in need.

They painted a mural that declared: “Ni perdonamos, ni olvidamos (we neither forgive nor forget).” Bright murals covered the walls, offices became bedrooms and the staff kitchen became a communal cafeteria. Women from all over Mexico City showed up to read poetry, perform music and write the names of their abusers on the walls.

They renamed the building as Okupa Cuba Casa Refugio (Cuba Occupation-Shelter House) — or Okupa for short. They have demanded that these women not be prosecuted for the protest; for police officers to receive gender sensitivity training; for the president to present a report on actions to decrease gender-based violence; and for the state to guarantee a quick resolution of femicide and disappearance cases.

The occupation was the culmination of year-long mobilisations against gender violence in Mexico City. The young women of the Bloque Negro joined the movement from personal experience of violence. Others were radicalised by the police violence they experienced during protests.

Every day, they wake up to alerts in news and social media about disappearances, rape, abuse and murder. Black Block protestors protesting through direct-action techniques have long been a ubiquitous presence at political demonstrations in Mexico City.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Andrea Murcia (@usagii_ko)

Their appearance was inspired by Zapatistas, anarchists who wore black balaclavas to declare war on the Mexican state in 1994 and take over not a building but a territory. Now, large groups of women are adopting these strategies.

After police officers sexually assaulted a young woman, activists took to the street, broke bus station windows, set a police station on fire and graffitied feminist slogans on the iconic Angel of Independence monument.

They expected police retaliation and arrests, which led them to coin the phrase fuimos todas (it was all of us). “The window we broke, the fire, wasn’t done by one person”, so that police can’t target them individually.

The women had declared the Okupa a shelter for survivors of gender-based violence. The building became a safe haven for many, including relatives of victims of forced disappearance, Indigenous women forcibly displaced from their homes by organised crime and survivors of domestic violence.

Hundreds of survivors have come to seek lodging and legal counsel. They gather to hear testimonies of fellow mothers of victims of femicide, rape and enforced disappearance. They have turned the building into a community. A committee was constituted for cooking each meal and everyone was responsible for washing their own dishes.

perotest poster against femicide
A poster loosely translating to “no more deaths”. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The women take turns keeping guard at the doors, where they have arranged a line of Molotov cocktails for emergency use since the blocks around the Okupa have a constant police presence. The occupiers have planned security protocols in case police attempt to evict them from the space violently.

The organising among so many women is done through dialogues and discussions, thinking about each other and their actions and consequences. They are determined and not ready to accept anything less than justice. They are struggling, resisting and persisting to stay alive because in Mexico, staying alive is a challenge.

“Insist, Persist, Resist and Never Give Up”

They painted “We do not forgive or forget”, “Justice”, and “duuuude, not the wall!!” — a reference to public outrage over a graffiti left in the wake of past feminist protests, an outrage much louder than that over violence against women.

They painted over portraits of all-male historical figures adorned with lipstick, eyeshadow, purple curls, “ACAB”, anarchist symbols and flowers. They brought these paintings outside and displayed them, images that have gone viral. The groups are auctioning off the paintings to fund their shelter.

The occupiers include older women, kids and pregnant women. Many are university students, who in between activities, turn to online classes. Many were arrested in the frequent clashes with the police, who used tear gas and violence on these protestors. But the women plan to keep the occupation of the building even if the state agrees to their demands.

Protesters at a femicide protest in Zocalo, Mexico City
Protesters at a femicide protest in Zocalo, Mexico City. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Okupa has inspired similar protests across the country. When feminists took over the Human Rights Commission in a neighbouring State, police violently evicted them. The next day, the Bloque Negro returned shouting, “If it’s not ours, it’s no one’s”. They broke the locks, smashed the windows and set fire to the building before marching away.

Even though there are fundamental differences between the Shaheen Bagh and Okupa protests, both were led by women who were frustrated with their government. They wanted to send a message that they could take matters into their own hands and raise their issues themselves and are completely capable of self-organisation through mutual aid and democratic decision making.

The Shaheen Bagh protest saw women come in large numbers to occupy the protest site demanding the repeal of the discriminatory CAA, NRC and NPR. Both these protests saw the participation of women on a radical and unprecedented scale never witnessed around the world.

These protests where women are reclaiming their rights and occupying public spaces simultaneously at two farthest points in the globe gives us hope that a new dawn is approaching, where equality will not just be a privilege for the few but the norm.

This article was first published in Round Table India.

Featured image for representational purpose.
You must be to comment.

More from Pranav Jeevan P

Similar Posts

By Sudhanshu Jha

By Ritika Jain

By aanyawig

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below