Back in April, I saw on Facebook that one of my high school friends from Argentina was posting about a missing friend called Micaela García. Before long, my social media was flooded with posts from other people asking for information about her – asking if anyone had seen her recently or knew where she was. But my friends’ posts were the most shocking to me.
She knew Micaela. She wasn’t just helping look for a stranger, she was looking for her friend.
Micaela García was missing for an entire week before her body was found. She was an activist in the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) protest movement against femicides that emerged in Argentina in 2015 and spread across the continent all the way to Canada. Micaela was a part of the movement for years. She would travel from her home in the province of Entre Ríos to Buenos Aires every year for the Ni Una Menos march on June 3rd and would organize activities to raise awareness in March each year for International Women’s Day. She had dedicated herself to ending this violence yet ended up as a victim herself.
Micaela’s murder lead to protests for justice. Then it became public knowledge that her attacker had been jailed for nine years in 2012 for raping two women in 2010, but a judge had ordered his early release in July 2016 after he had completed only half of his sentence. The entire country was furious, and rightly so. Suddenly there were two men responsible, Sebastián Wagner and the judge that set him free.
Wagner was sentenced to life in prison in October this year. It was too late for Micaela though. I don’t believe he should ever have been sentenced to just nine years in prison in the first place, never mind been granted early release. His victims shouldn’t have had to live knowing that their attacker would one day be released.
The case left a lasting impact in the country. Micaela’s loved ones created the Micaela García “La Negra” Foundation to continue her activism and volunteer work in Villa Mandarina, a low-income neighborhood where she would feed children, help them with homework, celebrate their birthdays, and participate in programs to reduce poverty rates and inequality.
There were also 13 laws proposed regarding violence against women, including sexual violence and femicides. They are known as the ‘Micaela García laws’ and they tackle both prevention and reaction. They are designed to help victims and their families recover physically, psychologically, and even economically. They also focus on improving the government’s attitude towards victims by trying to make employees in the public sector take courses on gender violence. Regarding the general public, these laws are trying to educate all people, no matter their gender, not to be violent towards women.
I’ve talked to my friend, Micaela Villa, about how losing Mica in this violent way has affected her. She says Mica had already inspired her to become involved in the Ni Una Menos movement, but now that femicides have reached her on a personal level, she is more committed than ever before:
“Gracias a la violencia de género perdí una amiga. Hoy en día no dejo pasar por alto ninguna situación que tenga que ver con la violencia, que capaz antes si lo hacía. Y desde lo profesional, como estudio derecho, para en el futuro ser una abogada con una mirada sobre la violencia de género, empecé a tomar cursos, leer libros, ir a marchas, etc. Pienso que es lo que Micaela hubiese querido, y yo lo quiero hacer por ella y por todas. Las que fueron y las que lastimosamente vendrán.”
(“Because of gender violence I lost a friend. Now I don’t leave any violent situation unattended, which maybe I was doing before. From a professional standpoint, since I study law, I’ve been taking classes, reading about the subject, going to protests, etc. so that I can be a lawyer with a gender perspective. I believe that’s what Micaela would’ve wanted, and I want to do it for her and for everyone. Those who were victims and those who sadly will be.”)
I hope that Micaela’s suffering won’t be in vain. Real reform needs to happen, both legally and socially.
Too many women and girls have suffered. Too many lives have been lost.
We don’t want to have to keep fighting for justice. We don’t want to be scared when walking alone or taking a cab. Micaela would be proud to see her loved ones continue her activism against violence against women. We’ll keep her in our hearts every time we march for her cause, our cause.
Because Micaela is all of us. #NiUnaMenos