Women Unite against Men's Drunkenness

The women of Ajoya and the surrounding area also began to discover and exercise their power. One way they did this was to take collective action to address the problem of male alcohol abuse. This has long been a major cause of interpersonal and domestic violence in the region, with women and children often on the receiving end. Apart from direct physical violence, the drinking habits of men also indirectly damage the nutrition and health of women and children, because men often buy alcohol with money needed to feed their families.

In previous times there had been several bars in Ajoya, but many years ago they had been officially closed because of alcohol-related violence. For some twenty years the village was free of bars, although some illegal sales of alcohol continued. In 1982 the son of the municipal president announced that he was going to open a cantina, or bar, in Ajoya as a private business venture.

With help from Piaxtla's health workers, the women organized to fight this move. They put on a public farmworkers' theater skit dramatizing how the drinking habits of men bring harm to women and children. All parts were played by women and children, with women bedecked in pants and mustaches to act the roles of men. The skit showed how, if they worked together, women could do something about this "men's problem."

[picture of women's theater skit]

In response to the skit and other awareness-raising activities, the village women of Ajoya took united action to protest against the opening of the bar. As a result, several health workers who had helped organize the women were jailed. But the women held a protest rally at the jail until the last health worker was released. Next, they persuaded several newspapers to publish editorials criticizing the municipal president's use of public office to advance private business interests. The women were ultimately successful in blocking the bar's opening, and soon women's groups throughout the state were making similar protests and closing down local bars.

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