The invisible pain of migrant women

A journey through various areas of the migration route in Mexico to capture the harsh and dangerous journeys of lone women, pregnant individuals, and mothers with their children.

Photo: Alejandra Daniela from El Salvador gives birth to her third baby with the help of midwives of Midwifery and Ancestral Medicine in Tijuana.


Migrating women have miscarriages in silence in public bathrooms, they practice motherhood while riding on top of moving trains, and they beg not to lose their babies due to the malnutrition that comes from walking long distances and sleeping on the streets, they flee from their homes, where they are victims of domestic abuse. These are the testimonies of their journey through Mexico to get to the U.S.

In search of improving their living conditions and those of their families, women clandestinely enter a country that violates their human rights and that does not guarantee their safety or access to health services. Between 60% to 70% of migrant women traveling through Mexico are victims of sexual abuse or violence, according to the latest statistics published by the Population Council. This international non-profit and non-governmental research organization focuses on social science and public health in developing countries.

Sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and hormonal and psychological trauma are some of the consequences that prevail in impunity.

The toughened public immigration policies of Mexico and the U.S., such as the persecution of migrants by the Mexican National Guard since the COVID-19 epidemic, force women to seek clandestinity and remain longer in Mexican territory or on migratory routes, becoming the most vulnerable community to the dangers of kidnappings and abuse, according to organizations that accompany and support migrating women.

In this report, we visited the Mexican northern border cities of Reynosa and Matamoros in Tamaulipas, Tijuana in Baja California, and Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua. We also visited the Mexican southern border cities of Ciudad Hidalgo in Michoacan, and Tapachula in Chiapas, as well as the Chihuahua Desert, the port city of Coatzacoalcos, and Las Choapas in Veracruz, vital spots along the migratory route to the United States.

By Alicia Fernández

This report was produced with the support of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) as part of its Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice in the Americas initiative.

Miscarriages on the road: “It was like dying in the bathroom alone.”

Kidnapped by cartels, pursued by Mexican and American authorities, without medical attention, and stigmatized for interrupting a pregnancy, these are the conditions in which migrant women clandestinely undergo abortions.

Photo: Valentina, 28, looks through the fabric that covers her tent at the makeshift migrant camp in Matamoros on one side of the Rio Grande and near the border port.

Valentina migrated from her native Venezuela. She is 28 years old and pregnant. It is her third pregnancy on her journey through Mexico on her way to the United States. She lost her first two babies through miscarriages.

“It was like dying in the bathroom alone,” she says from inside a tent in a makeshift camp near a border town of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, where she shares space with around 1,500 migrants, most of them men.

Her journey through almost a dozen countries – Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala – happened without setbacks, including her journey through the Darién jungle: “thank God, no one raped me, no one touched me.”

Valentina – her real name was changed for safety reasons – says that the most difficult thing has been crossing Mexico, because after arriving from Guatemala, along the Suchiate River, she was abducted along with a group of migrants whom she met along the way.

“They put us on a truck where they set up a chase with the police and they were shooting and we were all stuck in the truck and it was incredibly scary,” she said.

She endured at least three kidnappings on her journey through Mexico before reuniting with her partner in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz; together, they have been deprived of their freedom at least twice more. One of those times she was pregnant and lost her baby.

“I was already trying (to get pregnant). I've been with my husband for five years. I took off the device and came out pregnant twice, and both times I lost it because of the fright when the La Maña cartel abducted us,” Valentina said about her decision to remove the contraceptive Intrauterine Device (IUD), which she had inserted after having her first child, who remained with his grandfather back in her country.

Valentina arrived in Ciudad Juárez, crossed the border, but United States authorities sent her back to Mexico, where she was detained by National Immigration Institute agents and was transferred south, to Villahermosa, Tabasco, to be released. There she got in touch with her partner, who was transferred to Veracruz, where they met and made their way back to the north of the country, to Tamaulipas, to once more try to cross into the United States.

Although now her journey is more complicated because her body feels different, she barely managed to get a medical consultation with Doctors Without Borders and paid for an ultrasound. Like the majority of migrants who travel through Mexico on their way to the United States, Valentina lacks medical services.

It is not easy to migrate and get pregnant in a country that is not your own, nor is it easy if it happens along the way, said organizations that care for and accompany pregnant migrant women.

In the southern border, Ani Arenas, an independent midwife, travels from Veracruz to Tapachula, Chiapas, to care for pregnant women in critical points for migrants, such as the Viva México migration checkpoint, where migrants are forced to wait for their permit to proceed through Mexican territory.

A migrant woman arrives at this place looking for help because one of her traveling companions is having an abortion in a house: “She told us that she was pregnant. We arrived here and she started having belly pain… She already went to a house where they let her stay. There, she is losing a lot of fluid, I don't know if she lost the baby,” Olga Manques, from Ecuador, tells the midwife.

Ani carries with her pregnancy tests, condoms and offers consultation to pregnant women. Her job is to serve this population that has few chances of accessing medical care and prevent abortions, however, many cases are outside her scope of action.

In Tamaulipas, a member of the Matamoros Decide collective, who asked that her name remained secret for safety reasons since she has been threatened and accused of being a 'baby killer' for offering accompaniment to women who wish to terminate a pregnancy, shares what she calls a "horror story".

A 16-year-old Mexican teenager who emigrated from Guerrero requested support to terminate her pregnancy in a shelter. Her family doctor had provided her with misoprostol and she had shared with the shelter director her desire to have an abortion.

“If you can list how much violence a minor can suffer, she had all the vulnerabilities and, really, they violated her over and over and over; the local nurse ends up taking the product out of the toilet and giving it to her in her arms,” the activist, a healthcare professional, said.

The accompaniment was remote, and both the pregnant minor and the activist calculated it would be a nine-week product; however, when they proceeded with the abortion, they realized that she was at least 19 weeks pregnant, and so the shelter staff turned violent against the young woman.

The shelter director isolated the teen, took away her cell phone, and prevented her husband from going with her when she was forced into a minivan. They took her against her will to the General Hospital to perform a curettage on her because, as the activist says, the shelter director said they had to “clean her in there.”

At 5 in the morning they took her out of the hospital with the fetus in her arms. When she’s again able to communicate she calls the Matamoros Decide member and asks her: “what do I do with this?”

She later lost contact with the young woman so her attempt to take the case to a legal front did not move forward.

Something that worries her is that at least half of the accompaniment they have provided to migrant women are the result of sexual assault.

“It is important that they know that there are methods with pills that are safe, and that they can turn to them,” she said.

Overcrowded conditions in places such as campsites imply a greater challenge, since these abortion methods involve a process of at least nine hours with active diarrhea, which is difficult in a campsite with no or few bathrooms.

“That becomes a whole problem; that is, basically like other types of vulnerabilities that we had not faced as companions,” she said.

Migrant clothing in a camp on the banks of the Río Bravo in Reynosa.

Shore of the Río Bravo on the border between Mexico and the United States

Bathrooms in the makeshift migrant camp in Matamoros

A large part migrant women have these abortions on the road, amid violence, spontaneously, without being recorded, and under conditions of malnutrition, complications due to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, respiratory infections, vaginal infections; the latter due to lack of of access to bathrooms or hygiene places, said Aracely Pineda, from Pro Salud, an organization that operates in Tijuana.

Such is the case of Valentina, who says that one of her two abortions happened two days after she was released by traffickers who kidnaped her: “I was already feeling bad. I was going to the bathroom; it was no longer my period (menstrual), and I went to the bathroom and I felt like something came out. And it was like dying in the bathroom, alone. My husband was working and well, what else, I had to take a photo and flush it.”

Mothering on trains: cornered by immigration policies

Migrant women are pushed to remain in Mexico, where they fight a battle for their human rights as policies, mass deportations and immigration measures such as Remain in Mexico, Title 42, CBP’s One App. work against them

Photo: Wilma travels on a freight train in the arms of her mother, Elizabeth, along with a group of migrants crossing the Chihuahuan desert towards Ciudad Juárez, where they intend to cross into the United States

Elizabeth celebrated her son Wilma Gerardo's sixth birthday on a freight train that crossed the Chihuahuan desert, after traveling thousands of kilometers from her native Venezuela to reach the Mexican border with the United States.

She sits next to her husband while listening to the child say that he will never forget this day. As a gift for his birthday, he received a piece of candy and a plastic cart. Wilma created a story whose protagonist is “the shameless princess,” who is his new friend and train carriage companion who also travels with her family and is the same age as him.

Holding her child curled up with her arms on her chest, Elizabeth and her family has spent three days on that train on the Torreón-Ciudad Juárez route, a couple of other days they spent on a different train. They only have water to drink, no food, and they endure the dry climate and the sun as they are exposed to the elements all day. She, her son, and her husband became ill.

“Her nose was bleeding, she had headaches, and felt like vomiting. She had a fever, a fever that felt as if it came from the Sun and the rain that we get (while traveling),” said Elizabeth while holding Wilma, whom she never imagined would raise on a cargo train.

She is three - almost four months - months pregnant, and that makes her feel even worse, says the woman who has been traveling for months, on vans, walking, and on freight trains.

One day before starting their journey through the desert in the city of Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, an operation that included the Mexican National Guard, the Chihuahua State Police, and the National Immigration Institute tried to persuade Elizabeth and her family to get off the training wagon, in which at least a thousand people were traveling towards Ciudad Juárez and seeking to cross into the United States.

Some of the migrants got off and split up to reboard two other trains. The train where Elizabeth is traveling with her son and her husband continues its journey, but moves very slowly. It stops for hours at four points along the route, and migrants are forced to spend cold nights and hot desert days on top of the train cars.

Along with Elizabeth and her family, about 400 other people migrating follow their journeys. Mostly women, fathers, and mothers with children, single and pregnant mothers. Among one of these women is Nicole, also from Venezuela, who is nine months pregnant and urgently needs to get to the border to surrender to the U.S. authorities before having to go into labor.

The roofs of the trains are covered with industrial iron and screws, and everyone is alerted to the risk of tripping and taking a fatal fall from the top of the moving car. Some women tie their sons and daughters to these irons to reduce their risk of falling off the train.

When they arrive in Ciudad Juárez, they get off the train and continue the road to the border wall on foot. Elizabeth and her family walked for a few hours towards the Mexican side of gate 36, an unofficial entry point on the iron border wall installed along the border by the U.S. government.This is where hundreds of migrants arrive to when they get off the train to surrender to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents of the U.S.

Elizabeth says that reaching that door represents a possibility of getting medical attention for Wilma, who suffers from seizures which are expensive to be treated in Venezuela.

At the site, a polluted river awaits them, a double barbed wire installed by the Texas National Guard, and soldiers who seek to keep them away from U.S. territory; while on the Mexican side of the river, dozens of Mexican immigration agents and the Ciudad Juárez police seek to persuade migrants not to cross the border.

Elizabeth and dozens of foreign women who travel with their sons and daughters of different ages experience what is considered the most recent humanitarian crisis related to people who migrate because many became stranded along the way. Ferromex, a railway company of Grupo México, had suspended operations of dozens of freight trains with routes to the north of the country to prevent migrants from boarding.

Photo: Marile from Venezuela spent several days on the train tracks after the Mexican railway company Ferromex decided to suspend train service.

Photo: Nicole, nine months pregnant, rides the freight train to Ciudad Juárez, hoping to arrive before she goes into labor

Thousands of people on their migrating journeys were left stuck in different parts of the country, where they consume their limited basic food resources and do not have money to purchase more, where they have to sleep outdoors, and become victims of violence, which has been documented by organizations such as the Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI). Migrants also develop diseases and have little access to health services.

Photo: A 22-year-old Venezuelan woman asked not to be identified, poses for a photograph on the sidewalk of a gas station where she is looking for a place to sleep after she was expelled from the Ferromex yards by immigration authorities in the city of Chihuahua.

A total of 1,473 crimes committed against migrant women were recorded from January 2018 to August 2023, according to data compiled by IMUMI. The Institute's data also shows that migrant women suffer the most from gender-related crimes, such as rape. Three quarters of these crimes are committed against migrating women. Although these numbers may add up to more victims, there is under-reporting due to fear faced by victims about the retaliations of reporting crimes to the authorities because they are unaware of their basic rights, and seek to avoid any risk of deportation.

The organization Alternativas Pacíficas (Peaceful Alternatives,) which is dedicated to providing care to migrant women in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR,) assisted around 150 women from January to June 2023, and 50% of these have reported some sort of sexual assault, however, Ángeles Roque, coordinator of the psychology department of the organization, considers that this number is lower than the reality.

On many occasions cultural aspects are determining factors when communicating with women on the move and providing them with health services, according to Alternativas Pacíficas.

“Women in Haiti generally need a person who acts as a translator and so talking about a sexual assault with an intermediary can have a lot of negative impact on the survivor,” says Roque. She points out language as one of the barriers for women from countries like Haiti to request health services and express their needs, in addition to cultural factors.

“They [Haitian migrant women] avoid talking about this type of aggression because they are threatened, and they have told us that they can be abandoned by their partner... This also implies that the partner will take their sons or daughters away from them,” said the psychologist.

Photo: Haitian women prepare food in a makeshift camp at an abandoned gas station in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Aracely Pineda, from the organization Pro Salud, which serves the migrant population and has a specific sexual and reproductive health program for women migrating in Tijuana, Baja California, agrees.

“They [the Haitian migrant women,] had a myth among them where they believed when women were taken to the local hospital, they left without their babies with them. They believed that when they performed an ultrasound at the doctor, their babies were killed,” Pineda said about a previous experience with pregnant women from Haiti in Tijuana who were afraid to attend medical consultations.

Babies die from health issues, such as fungal or bacterial infections, that were not treated during the mother’s migrant journey, according to Aracely. Some women are even unaware of their pregnancy until accidental spontaneous abortion strikes them with pain and the loss of their unborn baby.


“Every Tuesday and Thursday, we have Doctors Without Borders here. I took a pregnancy test, and it came back positive,” said Daphney, a 32-year-old migrating woman who is currently staying at a makeshift camp at a gas station on the streets of Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

She travels with her husband and two children, and she did not want to have another child, but she said she does not want to lose her baby either, and finds herself in a confusing situation because Doctors Without Borders provides her with basic care. However, she suffers from hypertension and requires special attention, but her and her family do not have access to money and does not trust public health services in Mexico.

“I have a friend who was pregnant and went to see the doctors in Mexico, I know there are several other similar cases, and they gave her a pill to kill the baby she had in her womb,” she said.

Photo: Daphney, 32, sitting in the tent where she lives with her husband and two children in a makeshift camp set up in an old gas station. She is pregnant and suffers from hypertension.

On the train

Alejandra Daniela waited for her humanitarian visa in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, for two months to travel through Mexico without problems. After processing her immigration documentation, she had little money left as her and her family waited for her documents to be processed. Now, she cannot afford to purchase bus tickets to travel from Mexico City to the northern border for herself, her husband, and her two daughters. They were forced to opt for riding the cargo train.

They arrived at the Huehuetoca “garbage dump” in the State of Mexico at nine in the morning, but the train did not arrive until dawn. “It passed by at around two in the morning. It was immensely cold and dark because there was no light there. Nothing could be seen, and then we were on the train tracks and when the train stopped, we grabbed the first place that we saw by the stairs…”

Daniela traveled pregnant from El Salvador, she brought calcium and vitamins with her. From bus to bus, going around immigration checkpoints, the woman suffered some falls that left her thinking she might lose her baby, but she had to choose to stop and take a rest, or keep moving forward and get her two little daughters to safety.

She did not receive medical attention until she got to Tijuana, where she first heard Milan's heartbeat. She did not think he would make it alive after going days without food.

“I'm very excited because I already have two girls and this is my boy... I hope that he is born well, and healthy... That because of the journey we are going through, I hope he won't come out with any illness... So far, they have told me that he is doing well,” she said.

Partería y Medicinas Ancestrales AC (Midwifery and Ancestral Medicine,) provides an oasis of medical care for migrant women in Mexico. It is located in the state of Baja California, and delivers services in various areas of the state and southern Mexico. Milan was born underwater, sheltered by this group of midwives who sang to him and gave him a loving welcome in Tijuana.

A few days after Milan's birth, Daniela's husband surrendered to the U.S. authorities along with their two daughters, who took them to a detention center. Alejandra Daniela stayed with the newborn in a shelter in Tijuana awaiting to get an appointment with U.S. authorities through the CBP One application.

Photo: Alejandra Daniela gives birth to Milan, her first boy, sheltered byPartería y Medicinas Ancestrales team of midwives headed by Ximena Rojas.

Long waits

The long waits faced by migrants who are currently in Mexico waiting to receive information from the U.S. immigration authorities, are due to the various policies applied by both Mexico and the United States government, and these mean greater exposure to all the vulnerabilities that migrating women may have.

“People spend up to 4 months waiting for a CBP One appointment… And during those four months, they are exposed to being victims of different violence and different crimes by different factors,” said Roque, from Alternatives Pacificas.

A recent study published by the Institute for Women in Migration, in which more than 20 organizations, networks, and human rights defenders worked, exposes the “ setbacks in Mexico's immigration policy and its impact on the guarantee of women's rights.” and girls in mobility contexts.”

This report, presented to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW,) states that the migratory flows of women and girls are increasing, and that this population constituted 22% of the irregular migrant population from January 2018 to July 2023.

The study identifies several moments of immigration policies that have had an impact on women's access to health, first of all, the mass deportations of people of Mexican nationality, of which 1 million were registered from January 2018 to July 2023. There were 212,707 cases of returns reported, of which 21.4% were women.

This has broken family ties as some mothers must fight for custody of their sons or daughters in the United States without being able to return to the country, it is shown.

“To the returns and deportations of Mexican people, the returns of non-Mexican people were added, due to the implementation of the “Stay in Mexico” Protocol (enforced between 2019 and 2022), the expansion of Title 42 (enforced between March 2020 and May 2023), and the implementation of Title 8 (currently enforces,)” said the document.

Many of the kidnappings and crimes that migrating people suffer have been after being returned to the Mexico-U.S. border, where women have reported barriers to accessing basic reproductive health services in addition to being subjected to acts of rape, and sexual assaults with great difficulty accessing justice.

Activist organizations question Mexico for accepting the expulsions of people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, from the U.S. into Mexico. In addition, using their National Guard to patrol the borders where migrants have been detained without the presence of the National Migration Institute, which violates their rights.

When the Mexican National Guard began its patrol on the border in 2019, several public images captured armed authority officials detaining migrants to prevent them from crossing the border, and subsequently being handed over to the National Migration Institute.

Escaping Violence and Finding It Along the Way

Gender violence in Latin America is a reason for forced displacement, however, it does not end when a woman migrates, but rather she faces different forms of violence along the way.

Photo: Yeimi, who fled her country pregnant after being several times abused by her partner, enjoys the Coatzacoalcos beach near the shelter where she is taking refuge while she awaits to continue on her way to the United States.

Miroslava saw the ocean for the first time when she arrived in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, while on her journey through Mexico toward the United States after settling in a house converted into a hostel near the beach. Afraid that her ex-partner would find her and fulfill his promise to harm her, the 46-year-old fled Honduras, her homeland.

To protect her 10-year-old daughter, Miroslava, whose real name we changed for safety reasons, suddenly left the country with a small amount of money.

“My daughter’s father attempted to rape her, and I reported it him [to the authorities.] He found out about this and sent someone to destroy my home and threaten me. I was told he [my ex-partner] was going to kill me, and that's why I ran away; he's a gang member”, she said.

Miroslava lived with her ex-partner for eight years when she became pregnant with their daughter. Nine months after her birth, her partner’s personality radically changed; he verbally abused her, consumed drugs, and left her for another woman, according to Miroslava.

Her daughter’s father returned to the their life when she turned nine years old, in what Miroslava thought was an attempt to reconnect with his daughter. She later realized his real intention was to abuse the girl, she later learned.

“One day, I came back [home] from running errands, and I saw my daughter in the bedroom, fighting to get him [her father] off her after he took off her clothes. I pushed him to the ground, took my daughter with me, and locked us in a bedroom. There, the neighbors heard the noise and called the police. When they arrived, he had already left the house. They couldn’t get him,”, she said.

She decided to leave her country and has since spent six months on the move with her daughter, living from the charity and help of people they meet along the way. Despite the uncertainty, she continues her journey through Mexico to get her daughter far away from danger.

“We are in fear and have to take risks. Violence and all kinds of dangers are abundant along the way. I just say, ‘I will continue moving forward to protect my daughter.’ I would give my life for my daughter,” she said.


Women leave their country to escape violence, but this follows them along the way. Through their journey and temporary stay in Mexico, migrant women stay in unsafe public areas where they experience gender violence, extortion, and abductions.

Their reproductive health rights are violated by having limited or non-existent access to medical services, such as abortion and prenatal care, and education and information on reproductive health. These specialized services for mothers can promote access to their financial independence, such as safe spaces designated for underage single mothers and early childhood daycare.


Along the journey, Miroslava met Yeimi, a woman who also fled her home country of Honduras to escape her abusive ex-partner.

“I asked for his help after finding out I was pregnant. He told me the best option for me was to have an abortion because he was not the father. He denied me from keeping the baby,”, said Yeimi.

Her sisters looked for a job to help her get out of her situation, but living with constant screaming and verbal abuse from her ex-partner, Yeimi decided to flee.

Now eight months pregnant, she travels through Mexico, going to the U.S. with her father.

Miroslava’s and Yeimi’s stories are not unique, as 60% of women who seek asylum in Mexico from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador fled their countries due to violence, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A woman heading to a migrant shelter with her son travels on a truck in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

A woman in a migrant shelter sits next to her son while recovering from a broken ankle in Tapachula, Chiapas.

Apart from fleeing gender violence, women attempt to free themselves from institutional and governmental violence. “Many women travel alone. They flee Venezuela for its violence by government agencies, from Honduras for their political persecution, or like the case of the women from Haiti, generalized violence in their countries,” said Ángeles Roque of Alternativas Pacificas [Peaceful Alternatives,] ​​a non-profit organization that provides care to migrant women in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

A migrant woman rides public transportation to a shelter in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, with her son.

While they flee violence at home, women encounter this same issue on the road to the northern Mexican border. “Many Women who are the heads of their homes, who own a business, and who have their lives together are attacked by different criminal groups in their countries. And fleeing from that situation, they find it again in their migration journey. It feels like a little more of the same problem,” said Roque.

In Mexico, migrant women suffer persecution beyond international borders. Discrimination and abuse by local police, Mexican National Guard and Mexican National Institute of Migration agents, and the general population, according to a 2023 report on migrating women and girls by the Mexican Institute for Migrating Women (Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, IMUMI.)

In 2022, 52,586 migrant women in Mexico received visitor’s cards for humanitarian reasons. More than one-fifth (21%) of these permits were issued to women who are victims or witnesses of a crime. The top countries of origin of these applicants were Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela, according to IMUMI.

From January to April 2023, Mexico issued 20,082 of these documents, and one of the most prevalent reasons (10% of all cases) for these requests is being a victim or witness of a crime and the top countries of origin for these are Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and Venezuela.

Regarding asylum requests based on gender, several civil society organizations that work with migrant women have recorded that many victims of gender violence seeking asylum do not receive recognition from authorities.

These organizations had published about the limitations on women's asylum processes: “The lack of psychological first aid training of authorities, few private and confidential spaces to communicate details of violence, little access to eligibility interviews carried out by people of the same sex, shallow investigations for documenting violence, among other issues, negatively influence the resolution,”

Long waits for a response from immigration authorities have a “decisive” impact on the applications of female victims, according to the Mexican Refugee Aid Commission (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados COMAR.) Although the maximum processing period is 30 days, they document cases that last more than six months.

Photo: A group of migrants of various nationalities who recently arrived in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, enjoy the beach near the apartments turned shelters where they will decide whether to continue their journey or wait for the immigration permits that will allow them to travel through Mexico.

In addition to limited access to medical and psychological care, in addition to being victims of all possible violence deteriorates the health and finances of migrating women.

Many women take refuge in provisional aid centers and migratory stations without adequate sanitation conditions while waiting for a legal response. Shortages in essential products for menstruation in migrant shelters in central and south Mexico forces women to turn to using fabric sanitary pads, according to the Mexican National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (Mecanismo Nacional de Prevención de la Tortura MNPT.)

In northern Mexico, poor public safety and health services in makeshift camps are a source of infections and diseases for women.

Fatima, a 39-year-old Nicaraguan stuck in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, set up a hammock in a temporary campsite next to the Rio Grande near the border crossing of Brownsville and Matamoros, where thousands of migrants live. She stopped having her period after falling sick at the camp multiple times.

Photo: Fatima rests and recovers in a hammock near the Rio Grande in the makeshift camp created by migrants in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

For more than ten days, she has been recovering from a severe stomach infection that made her drop 17 pounds. She seeks an immigration appointment to request asylum in the U.S. daily.

“We haven’t gotten an appointment yet, and the stress of the appointment disrupts your period. You overthink. One has no peace here, one feels practically imprisoned because one has no social life, you don't have anything”.


Research and multimedia content:
Alicia Fernández

Text editor:
Rocío Gallegos

Co-investigator in Tijuana, Veracruz and Chiapas:
Gabriela Martínez Córdova

Web design and development:
Nicolás Aranda

Vianey Alderete
Gustavo Martínez

Animation and graphics:
Gerardo Hernández

Image consultant:
Regina García

This report was produced with the support of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) as part of its Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice in the Americas initiative.

Publication dates:

Chapter 1: December 9, 2023

Chapter 2: December 18, 2023

Chapter 3: January 31, 2024