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Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico

by Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Higher education for indigenous women in Mexico
Planting Green Beans
Planting Green Beans

As COVID-19 shut down schools, stores, and all group activities we decided to focus on activities in the home. As a part of our program, our students plan individual service projects to help in the community. Most often the young women decide to tutor grade school students in the community or run reading circles. With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, this was not possible and we began to look for new ways to help the community. It has long been a dream to create a vegetable garden on our property to reduce costs for food and become more sustainable. In March we got to know a non-profit in a nearby town that was teaching organic home gardening, so we arranged for them to come to teach our students.


We cleared the ground and prepared eight beds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Every evening the students spend time in the garden, planting, hoeing, pruning, and this past month harvesting. It has not been easy, some plants sprung up in the prepared beds and prospered, green tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, radishes.  Some came up slowly but are finally giving fruit, chiles, corn, and sunflowers. We are still struggling to find the right combination of soil, sun, and fertilizer for onions, greens, and carrots. With organic methods fighting bug and termite infestations take more time but keep the soil safer.


Around the edge of the garden we planted banana plants, and local flowing trees called guiechachi, that produce fragrant flowers used in celebrations here in our region. Many of the plants were donated by members of our women's groups, cuttings from trees, and suckers from banana plants.  Once we get the knack of gardening and the COVID levels subside we hope to pass on our new knowlegde to families in the community so that they too may start their own gardens.  We hope in time to have a shady quiet place where people can come and relax their spirits. 


A few of our students' fathers came and helped create the beds and give advice, many of them work the land, although their climate and soil are very different from ours, we are on a flood plain and they are from a cloud forest. But they had great advice and it was good to see them working with their daughters in the garden.
This month we are back with a full contingency of students. After months in their villages, most decided that their internet service was not adequate to continue with online courses. So they have returned at the expense perhaps of not being able to return to their villages for vacation times. It was a hard decision, but they consider that continuing their education is worth the sacrifice. Ximena, one of the few students with no internet in her village, stayed in town with us the entire school year and tried to go home for summer vacation, but due to the fears of COVID, she was not allowed in her village and returned to spend her weeks of vacation time with us.
Their fears are not baseless as the pandemic has ravaged our region, Our official infection rate and death toll are not high, but in July there were almost seven times as many deaths in the city than normally expected. Mexico is using "excess death" as a measure of the impact of COVID due to a lack of testing and low trust in health services.


With the ongoing support of donors like you, we can provide an isolated space for the students to live and study during the pandemic. We have new rules and the students do not leave the property much at all, our staff takes care of shopping for food. We are faced with new challenges, the saturated internet system in town is overwhelmed with online learning and meetings, we are looking at getting a second internet service to provide more bandwidth to our students. At a max of 20 Mbps, we can only connect a limited number of computers. We also are using our multi-purpose room as a computer lab as we ran out of study space at the dining room tables, with all the students in class at the same time.

Thank you again for your ongoing support.

First Harvest with Zapotec word for rebirth
First Harvest with Zapotec word for rebirth
Green tomato harvest
Green tomato harvest
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Greysi, 2017 graduate  from CDC
Greysi, 2017 graduate from CDC

On June first this year we Centro de Compartimiento will be celebrating fifteen years of service in our community. Here in Mexico, a fifteenth birthday is special, like Sweet Sixteen in the United States. We had planned a big event, but with the arrival of COVID - 19 in our region those plans had to be canceled.

Once more in crisis, we as an organization are evaluating our work in the community. Just as after the massive earthquake in 2017 we are in new territory. In March the federal government closed all the schools and told them to transition to online classes. As this was two weeks before Easter break everything just shut down. Our students were no longer in classes and their families feared for their health, the felt it would be safer for them to quarantine in their small villages. So in less than a week, the student house was closed, we canceled all our adult learning classes and workshops and the staff went home to shelter in place.  

After Easter break, the schools announced online classes and we had to face the challenge of how to reopen. All the central work of Centro de Compartimiento, working in our community to help lift spirits and face the challenges and trauma in life, did not disappear during quarantine, rather it became essential, but with all essential work, carried the danger of the virus. Even more today, as only now, after two months of quarantine is the virus spreading in our community and local authorities are saying that our peak will be in the third week of June.

We stayed in contact with our scholarship students and at the end of April we asked if any of our students needed to return. Ximena was the first to say, yes. She told us she could not do her school work from her village, She did not have her own computer and the internet cafe in her town was expensive and slow. She also told us that her family members who usually support her education were currently out of work due to the quarantine. Half of our students were in the same situation and so we reopened the student house, adjusted the rules for quarantine, purchased new computers, and got back to work. They would quarantine at the student house, with only our staff leaving to shop for supplies. 

Our courses and women's groups were moved online. A subscription to Zoom made contact easier. In this time of stress, sadness, and pressure we need groups that we trust to tell our stories, release stress, and be present for one another.   

On June first, we will have a small meal and some cake with the residential students to celebrate our quinceñera.  We have been posting memories, stories, and pictures on our social media. You can find us by typing Centro de Compartimiento, A.C. on many of the major platforms. We ask you, our friends, to celebrate with us through a donation to help us continue our work. Your donation will go to provide room, board, internet, supervision, and support services to our residential students. In addition to our regular program services, we will be supporting our students with anything that their families normally supply but cannot due to lack of employment, personal hygiene supplies, transportation, school supplies, and medical needs.  

We are suggesting multiples of fifteen as donation amounts, ideally $225, which is fifteen dollars for each of our fifteen years of service, but if that is not within your means then $15, $30, $45, $150... you get the idea. If your means are greater please consider a donation of $1,500 or as they say in the US fifteen hundred dollars.  

We thank you for your generosity in walking with us and our students in this time of need. As the whole world is changed by this pandemic we are also praying for you and your families, that you may be safe and healthy during this time. 

Rosa, 2015 graduate from CDC
Rosa, 2015 graduate from CDC
Yudi,  2014 graduate from CDC
Yudi, 2014 graduate from CDC
Araceli, 2015 graduate from CDC
Araceli, 2015 graduate from CDC
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May - Third year Education Major
May - Third year Education Major

As we approach International Women’s Day we would like to celebrate all the women in our community their achievements and their participation in our programs.  Yet after two horrendous highly covered murders here in Mexico we are back to talking about safety.

Our Friday night our reading time morphed into a conversation about safety of women. We did not have to go the news feeds or social media for stories.  Of the young women seated in our program center ten out of twelve told of direct experience with inappropriate advances and touching from strange men. Once we started to talk the stories kept pouring out.  Most were incidents on public transportation, traveling the long distances to and from their villages, of waking up on a four or five-hour bus ride to find the hand of the passenger next to her touching and groping.  Each talked about the paralyzing fear, the anger, the shame and the lack of any accountability. 

We are honored to have a space where these young women can tell their stories and begin to heal from this kind of trauma. These spaces are all too few and far between especially in a culture that quickly moves the blame to the woman; how she was dressed, where she was, that she even had the gall to leave her village in the first place instead of taking her rightful place and wife and mother in the community. 

Mexico has a horrible track record on inclusion of women, justice for women and women’s issues in general.   Movements are rising here in Mexico and Latin America. In Chile a flash mob chant was created called “A Rapist on your Road”, it has spread across the world as a hymn for feminists.  It places the blame for abuse of women directly on the perpetrator and calls out the institutions that are perpetrators and accomplices in the oppression of women.  Here in Mexico groups are promoting March 9 as “A Day Without Women”, calling all women to stay home and not participate in any daily activity to protest the ongoing killing of women here in Mexico. 

These are necessary voices.  Men are hearing the anger of women.  Yet feminism here in Mexico is a dirty word, it is considered not pro-female but anti-male.   We need a next step, once the shouting and chanting is done, a step where we can hear each other stories and talk about how men and women are raised in our society.  Heal the wounds so that traumatized people don’t keep inflicting pain on others. 

After fifteen years of service to women in our community we have had many success stories, yet our young women still go out into a society that does not appreciate them.  They take change with them. They are living examples of a new path. They know now what a loving relationship looks like and they make better choices if they decide to get married and have children.   Yet it is not enough.  We need the men in our community to take a stand with us, we cannot make the changes without the men, the current power system, walking with us, listening to us, sharing their stories

This winter we have taken steps in conscientiously welcoming men.  First to provide a safe place for them to tell their stories, then to provide a space where both genders can meet in reconciliation.   In January we held our first all-male Servant Leader introduction.  We are now organizing a four-week Servant Leader program for men.   We have partnered with Gender Equity and Reconciliation International and Vista Hermosa Foundation to bring the first Gender Reconciliation Retreat to our region.  All of the young women in our residential program will receive a scholarship to attend the three-day program.  A program elegantly designed for men and women to safely share their stories and begin the changes needed in our society. 

We are ever grateful for your support of our program.  Through your support young women are not only getting room, board, and safety to continue their education far from their homes, but also an environment that encourages personal and spiritual growth.  Please consider a donation to support work for women as we celebrate women on March 8, International Women’s Day.  

Men's Servant Leader Introduction Group
Men's Servant Leader Introduction Group
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Enjoying the sun and the sand
Enjoying the sun and the sand

Greetings once again from the beautiful and sunny coast of Oaxaca. Well, we are not exactly on the coast but near and this past weekend we gave in to the requests from some of our students to take a trip to the beach. Although Oaxaca has over six hundred miles on the Pacific Coast most of our students, from inland towns, never go to the beach.


Oaxaca is one of the largest states in Mexico, and one of the most varied in geography, culture, and climate. Oaxaca boasts of over 60 indigenous languages and multiple ethnic groups. The largest being the Zapotec, Mixtec and Mixe peoples. Some villages in the mountains are so remote that it takes 6 to 8 hours to travel just 100 or so miles. This year we have one of the most varied groups of students in our history. Two of our new students are from the Sierra Juarez area of Oaxaca, home of Mexico's first and only indigenous president, Benito Juarez. As the crow flies it is only about 200 miles from our base here in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, but it is a twelve-hour trip for them. We even have a high school student from a town called Chocolate, in, of course, the chocolate producing region of our state.

Our program center is only about fifteen miles from the Pacific Ocean, but this year we have no students from coastal areas. They are from the arid mountains in the north of the state, the cloud forest in the east of the state, the hill region in the northeast, and the valley plains where our program center is located. Our two newest students from the Sierra Juarez are learning to deal with the intense heat of our region. They are used to warm days and cold nights, not constant eighty and ninety-degree weather.

For two and a half months since the students returned to school some have been advocating for a trip to the beach. Most of them have been to the shore once or twice in their life, but not often, we have had students who had never seen the ocean before even though our state has a long coastline.

We took the hour-long drive to the nearest sandy beach, Playa Azul, and enjoyed the surf and sun. Although only an hour from the house, the beach feels like a different world. It is not a big tourist area, most beachgoers are from the three small cities nearby. The bay is wide and the surf strong. The students only played at the edge of the water, the waves were high, and only one ever has learned how to swim.

We could see the fishing boats lined up near the water's edge, but late afternoon and early morning are the times the local fishermen are out. We took the opportunity to talk about the different lifestyles of the people of the coast, and the students could see the similarities in the lives of their farming families and the coastal culture. But mostly it was a time to relax and get to know each other better.

Storytelling is a big part of our program. We tell our stories and heal as well as go to school. Early in the school year is always a big change for us, with four new students who are not familiar with how we work it is always a challenge.  First, the stories are light and fun. Vanesa, a new college student who is studying Mechanical Engineering, lived for several years right on the border of the US and Mexico and told us how one of her aunt's chickens had crossed the border, and despite all their calling would not come back. With no one on the other side of the border to chase it back, it wandered off and was lost. She gave a wonderful imitation of her aunt clapping calling and throwing grain to the stubborn chicken to no avail.

Later as the months go by the students begin to tell about harder times in their families, trauma, and pain. This begins a process by which we can help them work through their issues so they are not stumbling blocks for their future.

Vanesa, 21, is in her fourth year of college, but her family no longer had the funds to pay her school fees and housing expenses here in town. She and her cousin heard about CDC from a fellow student and they came to learn about our program. Thanks to donors like you Vanesa did not have to drop out of school and can now finish her degree.  

This next Tuesday, December 3, is Giving Tuesday in the US and GlobalGiving is having a bonus day. Please consider giving on this day and your gift will be matched. Thank you again for your support of our program. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season.

Telling our stories
Telling our stories
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Current and Former students of CDC
Current and Former students of CDC

With the end of summer approaching, students are returning to school.  Each year at Centro de Compartimiento means a new group of students and new challenges.  Once again this year we have mostly college-age young women, but some who are also just beginning high school.  As we reported in June, Aided was going to take her entrance exam to the Elta Technological Institute to study renewable energy.  We were so excited when she told us that she had been accepted into the program.  Then we had even more good news that the school opened a satellite campus in the town of El Espinal which is much closer to Juchitan than is Union Hidalgo.  Aided asked for and was granted a change of campus and now will have fewer travel expenses.

The Centro de Compartimiento residential program is designed to provide room board and emotional support to young women who have to leave their villages to attend high school or university.  The student's families continue to support their daughters with school costs, transportation, and other personal needs.  The families also help our the program with occasion service projects, as the rainy season began, several of our students' fathers came in to help cut the weeds that grow fast and furious once the rains start. 

Even with our support and their families, some students still need funds for the school year.  Several of the students work with family members who own businesses and many local students spend the summers in Huatulco, a nearby resort town, working in small shops or hotels over the summer. This summer Heydi spent working with her uncle who designs and makes traditional regional dresses, Aided helped out in our cafe here in Juchitan and Amayrani went to work is a store in Huatulco.   

As we celebrated our 14th anniversary this summer, we were once again able to connect former students with our current students.  We can help and support the young women in our program but one of the greatest assets that we have as an organization is our graduates.   Some of our former students still live in Juchitan or nearby, though many have moved back to their home towns to work, or moved to a big city for better opportunities.  Several of those who live nearby have become friends and mentors to our current residents.  We value our former students, who are great motivators for your current students.  It is great for them to hear the stories of the older women who came from family and an economic situation similar to their own,  

We would also like to thank you, our other great asset, with your support we have been serving young women in Southern Mexico to dream our about a different future and work toward their goals for the past fourteen years.  Please visit us on our Facebook Page, Centro de Compartimiento, AC for more information and updates on the current school year.    

Maylit and Heydi
Maylit and Heydi
Heydi At Her Summer Job
Heydi At Her Summer Job
Heydi and her uncle
Heydi and her uncle
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Organization Information

Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.

Location: Juchitan, Oaxaca - Mexico
Website:
Project Leader:
Kristin Lietz
Juchitan, Oaxaca Mexico
$54,856 raised of $65,000 goal
 
640 donations
$10,144 to go
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