Giving Compass’ Take:
• Sharon Bissell at the MacArthur Foundation describes the rise of Mexican civil society, and the continued work of the foundation to protect human rights.
• How have foundation workers been successful in supporting civil society? What can donors learn from their experiences?
The number of civil society organizations in Mexico has increased dramatically. Women workers organized around their rights and safety; human rights defenders called out state repression in cities and in rural areas; migrants organized in home town associations and connected with family members in the United States; and indigenous Mexicans rose up against discrimination and exclusion through the Zapatista movement.
At that time, the Mexican Center for Family Planning, or MexFam, the conservation organization ProNatura, and the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago were discussing their shared interests. It was a small overture, rooted in the new hope and energy of Mexico’s civil society, but it also was the beginning of our more than three decades of partnership with organizations deliberately nurturing a culture of rights and justice.
In Mexico, access to contraception was complicated by cultural and religious beliefs and practices that kept—and continue to keep—women from fully exercising their rights. But Mexico held great promise thanks to its pioneering population policies, women’s entry into the work force, and a growing middle class aware of and interested in exercising their rights. Women’s and reproductive and sexual rights are intricately intertwined with human rights precepts and values, and, over time, MacArthur expanded its support to address longstanding and emerging human rights challenges through its programs.
The emergence of civil society organizations and their professionalization has been spurred by circumstance. Within this context, organized civil society has been at the heart of significant shifts in the concept of and legal protections for human rights. In 2000, after 70 years of one-party rule, civil society organizations helped draft the country’s first National Human Rights Program in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Read the full article about how civil society shapes modern Mexico by Sharon Bissell at MacArthur Foundation.
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