Melel Xojobal A.C.

Melel Xojobal is a children's rights organization based in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Our mission is to promote and defend the rights of indigenous children and young people through participatory educational programs that improve their quality of life. At Melel Xojobal we work in a participatory manner to promote the strengthening of indigenous cultural identity, to defend human rights, to strengthen personal and cultural dignity, to ensure that justice and liberty are respected, and that the participation of all is ensured regardless of race, gender, creed, religious affiliation or ideology. We believe that education is a fundamental means by which people exercise self-de...
Mar 13, 2014

Melel's birth certificate campaign

Page 1 of one of our leaflets, in Tsotsil
Page 1 of one of our leaflets, in Tsotsil

In February we launched a campaign to encourage families to obtain birth certificates for their children, as well as continuing the other activities of the project.

Obtaining a birth certificate and a registered legal identity is an essential prerequisite for enrolling children in school, and for them to qualify for government health programs. Despite this, lack of registration remains a major barrier which contributes to thousands of children in our city not attending school.

According to government statistics for 2010, nearly half of all children in Chiapas under the age of one had not yet obtained a birth certificate. There is no equivalent figure for the indigenous Mayan population (around a third of all people in Chiapas), but it is certainly much lower, as they constitute the poorest and most marginalized section of society.

Our campaign includes putting up posters, handing out leaflets and explaining to people how to register their children. So far, we have put up 72 posters in public places, mostly in markets, which are visited by thousands of people every day and are central in the lives of both the indigenous and mestizo population. So far we have handed out 90 leaflets in the Mayan Tsotsil language and 92 in Spanish, explaining to the recipients how they can register their children.

In addition, we have prepared radio announcements for the campaign (also in Spanish and Tsotsil) which are currently being broadcast on six community radio stations and also in the radio stations of the Merposur and Tielmans markets.

We expect this work to substantially increase registrations this year.

Following pressure from child rights organizations including Melel Xojobal, the government is slowly moving to address this issue. During the month of April families can now obtain the document free of charge. The state government has also commissioned a review to see how the registration process can be made easier and less bureaucratic.We are also working with the Civil Registry office to encourage them to create out-reach teams to continue the activities we are currently running.

There is a long way to go however. We still encounter stories of families turning up at government offices to be told they have run out of forms, or that the relevant staff are not present. Discriminatory attitudes against indigenous people also remain a problem. During April we will be paying close attention to identify these kinds of problems in order to press the government to do more.

Once again, a big thank you to all our GlobalGiving donors for your support for this work, which is tremendously important to get children into school and help families protect their rights.

Poster - "Obtaining a birth certificate"
Poster - "Obtaining a birth certificate"
Explaining how to obtain certificates
Explaining how to obtain certificates
Mother and daughter with one of our leaflets
Mother and daughter with one of our leaflets
Dec 5, 2013

Christmas appeal: Help a child worker in Chiapas get an education in 2014

Dayra, Santo Domingo Market
Dayra, Santo Domingo Market

Dear supporters,

Over the last 12 months, your help has made a huge difference to the children in the project. During this period, 258 children aged 6 -13 have taken part in activities.

The independent evaluation of the project, conducted last summer, found that 94% of children passed their end of year school test, and that 100% want to continue studying. This is a big difference in a city where a third of children drop out of education after primary school (and a substantial number never enroll, even at primary level).

We know our project works, and we’re incredibly grateful for your help: on a daily basis we see the difference it makes to the children.

But, as ever, work like this requires resources. That’s why we’re asking in the run-up to Christmas if you could support us with a donation, to help us keep this project running throughout 2014.

And if you think friends, colleagues or family might support our project, please consider telling them - share the following link on Facebook or Twitter, or just bring us up in conversation:

Thanks once again for your generous support, I hope you have a great Christmas.

PS if you haven’t already seen it, please watch this 60 second video from the children thanking you for your help.

What the children say about the project:

“I used to be afraid of trying anything, I thought I’d never amount to anything. I was afraid to go to secondary school because I didn’t think I was good enough. Now I feel that I really can do things. Taking part has changed the way I am.” (Sara, 13)

“I live in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in Chiapas. This [the project] has helped me a lot. Before I used to get low marks at school because the textbooks were too expensive for my family. Thanks to the scholarship from Melel, my marks have improved.” (Martha, 11)

What parents say:

“I’ve said to my children that I want them to go to school, it’s the best inheritance I can give them. So that when they’re older they can be a sales manager or a teacher or something like that, not a street vendor like me. (Daniel, father)

 “I see how enthusiastic my daughter is when she comes back from school and does her homework, she seems much more lively these days; even the teacher has been congratulating us for sending her to Melel”. (Annalisa, Mother)

Nov 14, 2013

An apology - here is the video we meant to send you!

Dear donors,

I'm really sorry, the email you were sent on Saturday linked to the wrong video on YouTube...

Different groups of children helped to make a very short video to thank you for your support, here's the correct link:

best regards

Fionn O'Sullivan

The children who helped make this video were:

Jenifer, 12 years old; Lizeth, 8; Paola, 13; Yesennia, 13; Itzel, 12; Sacubel, 7; Eyulisa, 12; Yolanda, 11; Eduardo, 11; José, 10; Erik, 3; David, 5; Ana, 11; Víctor, 8; Juan, 10; Carla, 8; Rodulfo, 13; Juan, 11; Juana, 10; Jade, 11; Dayra, 9; Eduardo, 12; Jorge, 13; Edith, 12; Josué, 6; Sandi, 9; Silvia, 10

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