Bring Literacy to Indigenous Women - Oaxaca Mexico

 
$3,905
$4,095
Raised
Remaining
Nov 8, 2012

News from Oaxaca

Marcellina, Edith, Baby Serena, and Edith Inez
Marcellina, Edith, Baby Serena, and Edith Inez

"We would have never believed that anyone would come and stay as long as you have. That is why everything works." -- Marcelina

Greetings from Oaxaca,
It’s hard to talk about my feelings as I meet with Marcellina, Edith and Edith Inez who are here with me as they sell their incredible weavings at the entrance to the Museo de Textil. It has really not been a particularly successful sale so we are revisiting our marketing plans to incorporate more sales in the US. Join us on December 8 at Christ Church Cambridge and on December 9 at Trinity Church Copley Square, Boston, MA.

The Circle of Women’s work is close to achieving our goals. The real part of the story is the Weavers’ preparations for taking over the weaving group and being on their own. I was blown away when Edith, Edith Inez and Marcelina arrived with a complete new inventory or rebozos. We had a meeting to talk about the transition and the women presented their plan for training new weavers. First, they will engage young women in Miramar in a workshop to describe their work and weaving business. Those who wish to continue will be assigned a mentor from whom they will learn the art of weaving.

As we leave Miramar, the Circle of Women is setting up a “rainy day fund” for the women to administer. The women would make loans and grants from this fund based on a collective decision-making process. Some ideas on the table include continuing the bilingual literacy classes for children.

Thank you for all your wonderful concern and support over the last 12 years!
We did it together!

Judith Lockhart Radtke
The Circle of Women

www.thecircleofwomen.org


Weaving Sale
Weaving Sale
Weavings
Weavings
Aug 6, 2012

Back from July Trip to Oaxaca!

Edith
Edith's literacy class

As is so often the situation in development work, our literacy program underwent some exciting changes in direction.  Because of the pregnancies of both master teachers, Augustina Garcia Lopez and Edith Espana, it was decided it was not a good idea to move the program yet to additional villages because of the extensive walking required and the danger long travel might pose to pregnancies. The plan to expand the literacy program had been delayed until the Fall of 2011.
 
Bilingual Literacy for Mixtec Children
After the birth of their daughters, the master teachers, Edith and Augustina, presented The Circle of Women with a new program. This involved the teaching of Mixtec to Spanish and Spanish to Mixtec to young children in their communities.  There are children who are totally Mixtec speaking who enter the first grade in the state schools where only Spanish is used and have some difficulty adjusting at first. On the other hand children who do speak Spanish are faced with losing their Mixtec.  Both of our teachers are bilingual and have been teaching both languages to adults.  They have also done a pilot Spanish program with children.
 
There are two classes (8-10 children each) of 5-10 year-olds being taught by Edith and Augustina, one Spanish to Mixtec in Miramar and the other in a more isolated village, Union y Progresso, is in Mixtec to Spanish. The bilingual Mixteco/Spanish language classes have been in session since Fall 2011.  Classes meet once a week at each teacher's home and each class is comprised of girls and boys, however the girls heavily outnumber the boys.  The teachers have met several times to plan curriculum together and find that they are moving at a similar pace. 

In July 2012, Lynne Rowe and Judith Radtke, The Circle of Women’s Executive Director, visited the classes  and worked with the teachers in the villages of Union y Progresso and Miramar.  Lynne taught a class with Edith. Lynne Rowe, the supervisor of the Literacy program is an experienced Spanish language teacher with a MS in Education from the University of Michigan.  She has written the curriculum for children in Maine.  She will be helping the Mixtec teachers move away from the more stilted form of language education commonly used in Oaxacan schools.

Learning New Teaching Methods
In July, Lynne conducted a demonstration class with Edith's class using English as the target language.  She demonstrated games and skills to depend less on the written word and use more props and actions to increase comprehension.  She also spoke with both teachers about using the concepts of Comprehensible Input (CI), based on Stephen Krashen's Theory of Second Language Acquisition. Krashen believed that, "We acquire language in only one way, when we understand messages, that is when we obtain “comprehensible input.”  Thus, we acquire when we understand what people tell us or what we read, when we are absorbed in the message.  More precisely, we acquire when we understand messages containing aspects of language that we are developmentally ready to acquire but have not yet acquired.”  Krashen’s theory has led to the development of the Total Physical Response and then to Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. The use of storytelling was used during the demonstration class with students.  The class was developed after Lynne corresponded with Ben Slavic, a leader in the field of Comprehensible Input. Slavic has also assisted in helping the Saul Nation in Oklahoma to develop curriculum to engage very young children in their heritage language.

The Children
Both teachers and students are excited about the classes, are having fun and are full of energy.  Classes meet weekly for three hours.  Edith and Augustina have been teaching for the Circle of Women for over five years, primarily with adults.  This is their first experience teaching Mixteco to children, although, they have had one previous class with children teaching Spanish.

Edith has a class of 8 children ranging in age from 5 to 10.  Since many of the kids walk an hour, they are often accompanied by a mother who tends to take some part as well.    

The children have just completed their Dictionarios (one is pictured) which includes some of their basic vocabulary.  Mixteco is a tonal language which is very difficult for English speakers but these children have heard it all their lives and are moving along with literacy much more quickly than the older women did.  Edith's class is probably moving the most quickly because the grandparents of these children with whom they usually live speak Mixteco.

Edith is also completing the two year class of women in Spanish/Mixteco literacy which she has worked with since the beginning. This class was not completed at the end of 2011 because of a problem pregnancy and birth.  (All is very well, her new baby Serena is on her back at all times). The women in this literacy class will become part of the microenterprise doll makers (see above) as they finish their curriculum.  This group, in addition to the doll making, works to retain their Spanish language and literacy through reading, talking, and writing.

kids dictionary
kids dictionary
May 21, 2012

Where we are at!

Judith, Agripina,Marcelina, Edith, Eleuteria...
Judith, Agripina,Marcelina, Edith, Eleuteria...

Saludos!
In 2001, five women gathered in the village of Miramar in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico bundled up in
their rebozos (shawls) to talk about ways to increase their capacity to weave and develop a self-supporting cooperative.

We are thrilled to report that with your generous support through the Circle of Women, they are very
close to accomplishing this goal. We invite you to join us in making their dream become a reality.
Since 2006, these women have learned great many skills and have paid off their $2000 capitalization loan to
the Circle. The weavers have been financially independent, they are managing their own business by paying
their own expenses for staff, laundry, transportation, and sales in Oaxaca.

Early on, the weavers also realized they needed to be able to read, speak, and write in Spanish if they were
going to be traveling to Oaxaca and developing a marketing plan. In 2008, we established a literacy program
for the weavers and other village women who were illiterate. After two years, 29 out of 37 women, became
functionally literate. Two local Mixteca teachers have also been trained to teach in a bilingual literacy curriculum.
The women have continued to maintain their literacy through a book club. This past year they have been
exploring a new business initiative in making handmade dolls. And, this year the teachers have started an
exciting new literacy program for children to strengthen their knowledge of Mixtec language and culture.
With the Circle’s support in organizing workshops on organic dyeing, product development, and fringe
making, the weavers are now among the most highly-skilled weavers in Oaxaca, so much so that in 2009
El Museo de Textil in Oaxaca had an exhibition of their work and continue to support their sales.

Three years ago, at the women’s request we also initiated a women’s health program to teach about basic
health, nutrition, women’s illnesses, small vegetable gardening, and yoga. The health program also produced
three new health promoters for the community and retrained three already working in the clinic.

It has been a rewarding journey. The empowerment of these women is a dream for anyone engaged in the
international development work. And yet, their non-stop efforts to better their lives need our support as they
become more and more independent. We feel extremely honored to be included in their community and feel
strongly that we are close to accomplishing our goals in Miramar.

As a supporter, we invite you to celebrate the accomplishments of these hard-working, creative and determined
women and help them make a lasting change in their lives.

Thank you very much for all your generosity in the past and we hope you will be able to help the women of
Miramar as the Circle of Women wraps up its work by early next year. We want to raise $10,000 to help the
women to stand on their own feet after we leave.

Thank you for all you are doing for the women of Miramar,

Judith Lockhart Radtke

Mar 6, 2012

Spring 2012 Update from Miramar

children
children's Mixteco literacy class

Hola to the friends of The Circle of Women!

This comes with greetings from the women of Miramar. I’d like to update you on all the happenings here in Oaxaca. I’ve been to Miramar three times and the women have been here twice, so we have indeed spent a lot of time together assessing where we are and planning for the future—a time of closeness and real sharing.    

We have discussed several possibilities on how to go forward, including turning over the Oaxaca non-profit organization to the women. The decision the women made was not to take on the non-profit at this time since it would mean a great deal of responsibility for legal matters and financial matters which they are not prepared to assume. This was the strong feeling of the older women, less so for those who are younger. We will watch how things develop.

Lynne Rowe, the Marketing and Education Director, and I with the women’s lead have already begun program planning for the rest of the year. We plan two more visits this year and lots of Skype!

So, here are the plans for 2012: As you know, we have three programs (literacy, health, and microenterprise) and the women are proposing another for themselves.

LITERACY—This Saturday, teachers Edith and Augustina are starting to teach two classes for children aged 2 to 10 in Mixtec to Spanish. They will do the reverse as needed.  In addition to language writing and speaking there will be a focus on culture.  This will involve bringing older people into the classroom who are knowledgeable. The kids will interview their elders and write journals in Mixteco.  This sharing of stories is known to be a very important and traditional way of passing on culture. The program is being done at the teachers’ and community request resulting from a pilot project with kids three years ago. THE CLASSES ARE FULL!

Edith is also continuing her adult program which was interrupted by her pregnancy and is conducting the Mixtec to Spanish class with literacy in both languages.



MICROENTERPRISE— The WEAVERS  are back at their looms from their coffee break   (picking, not drinking) and busily producing  their beautiful cotton shawls with the long fringes. The marketing committee, Edith, Marcellina, and Edith Inez spent a weekend at our home getting ready for a sale on that took place on Feb. 25. They sold many weavings, dolls, and even some books!—over $1000 in total. So, they headed back to Miramar with smiles!

They are scheduled for a three day sale at El Museo de textile in October and of course we will bring new inventory of rebozos to Boston. Cotton rebozos are $225, please contact me (judithlockhartradtke@gmail.com or 617-889-8177) if you would like to purchase one! 

HEALTH— The health project was completed in December but after going over the evaluation by the women we were asked for a family planning program for mothers and early teen-aged daughters who are vulnerable to early pregnancy, a common situation in the village.  

FOLK ART DOLLS—Women who have graduated from our literacy program have been continuing to learn by attending a book club. During the past year of the club, the women decided they wanted to make dolls to sell. It is clear these dolls are very special treasures and the weavers have taken on the responsibility of selling them with their weavings.  

We expect the women will be able to continue the literacy program by training new teachers and grow the weaving program through expanded marketing efforts. One of the health promoters we have trained will continue the health program as she is receiving a good deal of support from the Indigenous Women’s Council in the village.

Every one of you who have helped bring us this far and it is a time for celebration. We’ll keep you posted with plans for a fiesta!


Gracias!

 
Judith Lockhart-Radtke
children
children's Mixteco literacy class
weavings
weavings
Feb 13, 2012

Winter 2012 Report: New Directions

As is so often the situation in development work, our literacy program underwent some exciting changes in direction.  Because of the pregnancies of both master teachers, Augustina Garcia Lopez and Edith Espana, it was decided it was not a good idea to move the program yet to additional villages because of the extensive walking required and the danger long travel might pose to pregnancies. The plan to expand the literacy program has been delayed until the Fall of 2012.
 
This decision resulted in the women of the advanced program (22 women), the Book Club, who are in their fifth year of the literacy program, deciding to develop a microenterprise on their own with some support for materials. During their initial two year literacy program the final project was the making of dolls which they wrote stories for.  These dolls were shown in an exhibition at The Textile Museum in Oaxaca in the winter of 2010.  People were eager to buy them, however since many of these women had never had a doll before they were not happy to part with them.

The women in the Book Club run by Edith and Augustina, between reading of Like Water for Chocolate, thought they might be able to make more dolls and sell them.  To date, they have produced 23 dolls which will go on the market this winter.  They are presently using their newly acquired skills to write stories for each doll, which is tremendous as five years ago most of these women could only sign their names with an “X” or a fingerprint. The Book Club allows the women to practice their literacy skills in a supportive environment.
 
After the birth of their daughters, the master teachers, Edith and Augustina, presented The Circle of Women with a new program. This involved the teaching of Mixtec to Spanish and Spanish to Mixtec to young children in their communities.  There are children who are totally Mixtec speaking who enter the first grade in the state schools where only Spanish is used and have some difficulty adjusting at first. On the other hand children who do speak Spanish are faced with losing their Mixtec.  Both of our teachers are bilingual and have been teaching both languages to adults.  They have also done a pilot Spanish program with children.
 
There are two classes (15 children each) of 6-8 year olds being taught by Edith and Augustina, one Spanish to Mixtec in Miramar and the other in a more isolated village is in Mixtec to Spanish.

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Funded

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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Organization

Project Leader

Judith Lockhart Radtke

Staff Member
Chelsea, MA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Bring Literacy to Indigenous Women - Oaxaca Mexico