Education is a Conversation: I Want to Live! We Want to Live! Don't You? will work to improve the sexual and reproductive health of indigenous youth in Chiapas, Mexico by reducing violence and overcoming shame and stigma. Using engaging group methods and cultural stories, people practice speaking about shameful topics by talking about the lives of story characters that mirror their own. This leads to improved self-confidence to help themselves and others.
Through interviews begun in 2018, researchers have learned Tzeltal youth are expected to have partners, but if pregnancy occurs, they are forced to marry. If not, the girl is shamed by her family and community. Growing up, many youth witness and experience violence; parents rarely talk about sexual and reproductive health. What youth learn comes from peers and social media. At risk for sexual disease and sexual violence, youth's vulnerabilities are silenced within Tzeltal communities.
Community Narrative Practice (CNP) engages people in overcoming shame. CNP creates stories that exactly reflect what people say and how they act. In groups, people discuss alternative story endings; they share ideas about the story; they express what characters might say and then they practice saying it; they learn from each other. CNP creates a public platform for private suffering, dialogue, mediation and reconciliation.
This project brings Amextra, experienced and trusted within Tzeltal communities, together with Kathy Cash, the creator of CNP. Since 1993 CNP projects have had long lasting effects in resource-poor communities worldwide. In Haiti, for example, community child protection committees, originated from a CNP project, have been reducing abuse of children in servitude for 14 years. Similarly, this project will enable Tzeltal youth and adults to overcome shame and violence through their own volition.