As part of the celebration of International Women´s Day, I will write about a topic that is not well known but very relevant: specialized consular assistance for Mexican women in the United States. It is one of the many examples of the successful implementation of public consular diplomacy by Mexico.
The conclusion is that this initiative forced the Mexican Consular network in the U.S. to seek new partnerships with local organizations that further expanded the reach of Mexico´s public consular diplomacy.
1. Origins of a specialized consular care
In the late part of the first decade of the new millennium, Mexico’s Congress assigned funding to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) to provide consular assistance to victims of mistreatment (maltrato) with particular emphasis on women, children, and senior citizens.
Later on, in 2011, due to the Human Rights Constitutional amendment that adopted the “pro-persona” principle, the SRE established a new consular care model emphasizing specialized assistance to vulnerable groups.[i]
Mexico´s consulate began engaging with local and state authorities, NGOs, and the Mexican community to enhance the consular assistance to these groups. As part of these efforts, they strengthened their collaboration with traditional partners and expanded cooperation with new organizations. Some consulates established strategic alliances and designed new initiatives. An example of these partnerships was promoting the “Violentrometro” or the violence against women measuring ruler.
As part of these collaborations, the Consulate of Mexico in Kansas began a pilot program offering comprehensive services for Mexican women that visited its office or participated in their events.
Besides, at the Ministry´s headquarters, the Department of Consular Assistance to Mexicans Abroad (DGPME, in Spanish) spearheaded with UNICEF Mexico an effort to create a tool to improve consular assistance to unaccompanied Mexican children detained at the border.
In the next section, I will detail one of the most important specialized consular assistance programs that focus on women: the Initiative for Comprehensive Care of Women (Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer -VAIM-).
In a different post, I will write about the other program: the consular care protocols focused on unaccompanied children, gender-based violence, and human trafficking.
2. Initiative for Comprehensive Care of Women (Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer -VAIM-)
As mentioned, the Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer or the “Initiative for the Comprehensive Care of Women” (VAIM) began as a pilot program in Kansas City in May 2015.[ii]
Its objective is to interconnect all areas of the consulate to offer specialized assistant to Mexican women. Besides, it promotes training and sensibilization about their challenges and creating a resources and a services directory.[iii] Its ultimate goal is to empower women in all aspects of their lives.[iv]
“In the framework of Consular Diplomacy, the VAIM boosted actions to provide consular assistance [to women] through the establishment of an important network of strategic alliances. [The Consulate in Kansas] signed 18 memoranda of understanding that resulted in a wide range of benefits to the women that requested assistance.”[v]
Besides, there was a great effort to train law enforcement officers about the consular functions, collaboration mechanisms, and consular notification.[vi]
As part of the 2016 International Women´s Day celebration, the SRE announced the expansion of the VAIM to all the consulates in the United States.[vii]
It was an important milestone as it was a whole-of-consulate approach. Mexico´s consulate had to be proactive in developing and strengthening alliances with new and old stakeholders. “The creation of a strategic support structure allows increasing resources, early detection of potential cases, providing better consular care and expanding additional outreach channels.”[viii]
From March 2016 to June 2018, the Mexican consular network organized 5,088 VAIM outreach events with a total participation of 387,980 persons and consular assistance provided to 10,627 cases.[ix]
The establishment of VIAM highlights the versatility of Mexico´s public consular diplomacy. As many Mexican women and children migrated north, the community's needs changed; therefore, the consular care offered by the consular network had to change too.
There were efforts focus on assisting women, but the VAIM was a milestone as it was comprehensive consular care, not focused on one issue, but searching to offer as many consular services as needed.
I believe that the most important result of the VAIM was a change in the mindset of not only consular officials but also the Mexican community at large and local allies about the need to provide specialized consular care to Mexican women. It was a significant change as in the past, most consular assistance was provided to men, as they were the majority of migrants to the U.S.
Besides, it opened the door for a whole new set of allies and strategic partnerships that enhance the consular care given to Mexican women, which opened the doors for empowering them.
Vanessa Calva Ruiz explains that “the establishment of partnerships not only takes care of urgent needs of the Mexican community but also assist them in integrating to the host society by linking them with local actors that offer resources.”[x]
[i] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, “Diplomacia Consular y acercamiento con socios estratégicos” of the book La Diplomacia Consular Mexicana en tiempos de Trump, 2018, p. 206.
[ii] Gómez Maganda, Guadalupe and Kerber Palma, Alicia, “Atención con perspectiva de género para las comunidades mexicanas en el exterior” in Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, No. 107, May-August 2016, p. 197.
[iii] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, 2018, pp. 208-209.
[iv] Gómez Maganda, Guadalupe and Kerber Palma, Alicia, 2016, p. 197.
[vi] Gómez Maganda, Guadalupe and Kerber Palma, Alicia, 2016., pp. 197-198
[vii] Government of México, 4º Informe de Labores SRE· 2015-2016, 2016, pp. 189, 201.
[viii] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, 2018, pp. 209-210.
[ix] Government of México, 6º Informe de Gobierno 2017-2018, 2018, p. 681.
[x] Calva Ruiz, Vanessa, 2018, pp.213-214.
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer, or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.