Providing safe accommodation to vulnerable older women in Mexico
Mexico - Gloria* has many stories from her past to share -- from milking cows and feeding chickens on the ranch where she was born, to tales of old boyfriends. "They were handsome," she says, although she never married.
But she is afraid of the future and embarrassed to talk about the present. At 84 years old, she found herself alone and far from home, without a place to live. She worked as a live-in cleaner for a family until one day, they announced they were moving and kicked her out.
Elderly women face an increased risk of physical and psychological abuse due to discriminatory societal attitudes.
She looked for a place she could afford on just her government pension, but soon gave up. When she asked a woman she knew for help, the woman called the police. After spending the night looking for a place that would accept Gloria, the authorities turned to the Spotlight Initiative-supported temporary and free accommodation programme. The programme offers hotel rooms to women survivors of violence and their children, and is delivered by UNICEF and UNFPA.
Surveys by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) show that two-thirds of women in Mexico have experienced some form of violence, with almost 44 per cent suffering abuse from a partner. However, partner violence is not the only form of abuse that Mexican women experience: more than 37 per cent have suffered community violence, according to the National Survey on the Dynamics of Relationships in Households (Endireh) 2016 (INEGI).
Elderly women face an increased risk of physical and psychological abuse due to discriminatory societal attitudes. They are also more likely to live in poverty and are less likely to have access to legal protection.
“I will always remember it, I thank you very much for all the time you had me." - Gloria*, 84
Gloria has been welcomed by the Grupo Posadas chain of hotels and lives in a room on the ground floor behind the lobby, which is accessible to people with disabilities or motor difficulties. This way, she doesn't have to climb stairs or travel far when she needs to request something.
The programme includes a kit of basic hygiene products for the women who arrive. In conjunction with government authorities, they also receive free food, medical attention, legal advice and psychological support.
Hotel staff assist Gloria to ensure she gets her meals, medicines and clean clothes. Although she has a psychologist who calls daily, Gloria says the company of the hotel staff has greatly improved her spirits.
“That girl who pampers me comes to ask if I need anything else, and so on," says Gloria, finishing her breakfast.
What would she have done if they hadn't brought her here?
“I didn't even know that this place existed," she says. She explains that the programme needs more publicity so that other vulnerable women know that they have options.
Although Gloria has nine siblings, she doesn't have a relationship with them, so after the hotel she will go to a specialized care facility for the elderly.
The programme provides one week of accommodation to survivors of violence and works with them during this time to develop a long-term strategy for support.
In April 2022, the project had supported 331 women and 426 children and adolescents in 19 cities across Mexico.
Gloria says the programme came to her aid in the saddest moment of her life and for that, she will always be grateful.
“I will always remember it, I thank you very much for all the time you had me," she says.
By Itxaro Arteta
*Name changed to protect privacy.