There is yet another twist in the MAC-Rodarte tale… And not one I was prepared for.
The last we heard from MAC was to announce that they were going to donate all global profits from their collaborative range with Rodarte and had met with a “collective group committed to working together on the overall direction of the new initiative to help the women and girls of Juarez and to raise global awareness of their plight”.
Well, as of yesterday – 16 August 2010 – it seems they’ve now decided to scrap the collection altogether.
In a statement that went up on MAC Cosmetic’s Facebook page yesterday, MAC announced that “out of respect for the people of Mexico, the women and girls of Juarez and their families, as well as our M·A·C Mexican staff and colleagues, M·A·C has made the decision not to ship the M·A·C Rodarte limited edition makeup collection”.
My first question arises here. What do they mean by not “shipping” the collection? Does this mean not at all? (Full stop. Anywhere in the world?) Or are they still planning to sell it in the U.S.A. but won’t be shipping elsewhere? I think the consensus is that they mean that they’re halting distribution completely, but really, the wording isn’t very clear. (Furthermore, Facebook does not seem the appropriate, most official platform to announce this, but anyway.)
They go on to state that “This decision will have no impact on M·A·C’s commitment to donate all of its projected global profits from this collection to local and international groups that work to improve the lives of the women and girls of Juarez”.
Projected profits? Sorry, call me cynical, but who decides what this figure will be? That was my most immediate concern when I read the statement yesterday. How can they project profits in a transparent and accurate way? Is this figure going to be made public knowledge? And, most importantly, how much money will actually get to the victims and families affected by violence, rape and murder in Ciudad Juarez?
MAC state: “We are currently conducting due diligence to ensure we donate to organizations with a proven record of directly supporting the women and girls of Juarez.”
That sounds all good and well, but I’m afraid alarm bells immediately began ringing in my ears. And my cynical feeling was only confounded by reading an interview today conducted by Marga Britto on www.clubdelilith.com with Norma Ledezma from the non-profit organisation Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for our daughters. This is one of the organisations that I nominated on my petition to MAC calling for them to donate all their profits, raise awareness of the femicides in Juarez through their marketing, and conduct their conversations regarding donations with the appropriate IMPARTIAL non-profit organisations.
Incidentally, I sent the petition to MAC yesterday. (I haven’t yet heard back.)
My biggest concern since MAC released their previous statement about their ‘newly formed initiative’ was the involvement of Mexican government officials and a Mexican government appointed body, CONAVIM (Comisión Nacional Para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres/National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women), in their discussions.
Now, I am not in a position to defame this organisation, nor do I wish to. However, please note that this is not an independent non-profit organisation, therefore it is reasonable to say that it’s not completely free from state influence. I have been advised, quite passionately, by a number of very well informed on-the-ground volunteers in Juarez and scholars on the issue, that the Mexican government at local, state and even federal levels is corrupt and guilty of negligence, having failed to adequately investigate the crimes in Juarez since 1993. In a recent BBC article, allegations of blackmail and extortion were highlighted within the Mexican police force; and in some cases, Juarez state police officials are even facing allegations of direct involvement in the rapes and murders taking place in Juarez.
You can see why people are concerned about MAC talking to the wrong people and this money getting into the wrong hands. And even if CONAVIM is a transparent and amiable organisation, it clearly hasn’t had much influence so far in ending the femicides. Over 200 cases have already been reported since the beginning of this year.
In my opinion, and was the primary aim of the petition I set up, all financial donations should go to non-profit organisations with a proven history of empowerment for women in Juarez. Certainly not to the Mexican government (either directly or indirectly).
To believe MAC’s statement that they are “conducting due diligence to ensure we donate to organizations with a proven record of directly supporting the women and girls of Juarez” is tempting. However, I cannot be sure of their committment to this pledge, especially after reading Marga Britto’s interview.
Marga interviewed Norma Ledezma, founder of Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for our daughters). This non-profit organisation is made up of parents and relatives of young women who are missing and/or murdered in the State of Chihuahua, where the city of Juarez is located. Norma lost her 16-year-old daughter, Paloma Angelica, in 2002. Her daughter was a maquiladora worker. The Mexican authorities failed to adequately help her in her search for her child, and after 27 days of hopeless searching, she was found dead.
I urge you to read the interview in full I’d like to pull out a few key messages for you too.
Norma explains her reaction to the MAC- Rodarte collection, shared by other mothers who’ve lost their daughters to the femicides in Juarez:
“… more than indignation, anger or rage, the feeling was of sadness. It deeply sadness us because this situation is so real, so palpable, so close to us, and we try so hard to perpetuate the memory of our daughters with pride, to defend this right they had to life …
“This is a real problem, we are not a myth. The murders and disappearances of women in the State of Chihuahua are a reality. So we felt the whole thing was a mockery.”
Speaking of the MAC-Rodarte promotional image (a death-like photo of a pale, sunken faced model) Norma said:
“I see the files and I look at the bodies. My job is to deliver the remains, and I have deliver remains to families, so many times throughout these years. And when I saw the photo of the model (MAC), I did not feel anger really, but sorrow, a sharp blow to the heart.”
What was really clear from the interview is that for Norma and Justicia para Nuestras Hijas this whole debacle isn’t about money. It’s about “justice, and the dignity and respect for our missing and murdered daughters and their families”.
It was heartbreaking to read and brings home the message that this is really happening, to real people, just like you and me: daughters, mothers, aunts, cousins…and there is no justice. What I had so hoped for from this MAC-Rodarte affair was that awareness could be raised about these horrific crimes and that justice, just maybe, would be a little closer for the mothers who’ve lost their daughters and for everyone who’s gone through the pain and anguish and despair at having a loved one taken from them in such a cruel and vicious way.
But by pulling the collection, awareness will not be raised – not by MAC at any rate – and there still remains the issue of where this money is going to go. I have little faith that MAC is “diligently” trying to contact the organisations who work with the women of Juarez. Was Norma Ledezma contacted by MAC when they were planning their ‘new initiative’, you may wonder? No, she was not. No one from Justicia para Nuestras Hijas, one of the most established and well known non-profit organisations working on the ground with the victims of the femicides in Juarez, was contacted:
“Not before and not after. To this point Justicia para Nuestras Hijas has been left aside of the whole situation. We have learned though the pieces of information published in the media, but not from them, neither MAC nor Conavim”.
“And now CONAVIM is appearing in the discussions left and right. I mean, is not like anyone from CONAVIM has come here to meet the families and follow their cases!”
Reassuring, isn’t it?
So what now? Who knows what statement MAC will come out with next but I do hope that they come back with something that more clearly explains who they are “diligently” trying to get in contact with (aside from the Mexican government and CONAVIM), how much money this means, who this money goes to, when and how, and what their longterm strategy is to provide real help to the lives of women and girls in Juarez. (And please don’t just update your Facebook status MAC.) I would like to see proof that they have been in touch with Justicia para Nuestras Hijas and all the other organisations who tirelessly fight for justice for their murdered daughters and all the other lives lost in Juarez. And I want them to acknowledge the severity of the situation which has been going on for nearly 20 years with no justice for the dead and their families.
This is not about money, Norma explains, but the dangerous reality of life for women in Juarez, the horrific murders which have taken thousands of women’s lives, and the corruption and collusion of those in power who are allowing this to continue. It is the memory of her daughter that she wishes to protect and uphold; and it is justice which she seeks.
“What really bothers me and hurts the most is that funding has become the main theme, not the terrible situation of the femicides…
We want the executives of Mac to come to Juarez and see what is the situation with their own eyes. We want them to meet the families, listen to their stories, and see first hand the monumental work that not only Justicia para Nuestras Hijas has been doing but that of the rest of the organizations”.
MAC, I hope you are finally listening.