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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
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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Aided
Aided

After nearly eight months with no rain, the rain is forecasted every day next week.  This is normal in our region, we have very distinct rainy and dry seasons.  Our seasons divide into rainy, windy and hot, instead of warm and cold.  We are grateful for the rain. All of our student´s families rely on a good rainy season for their crops and food for their livestock. 

When the rains come it is nearly the end of the school year.  The students are heading into their final month of school.  After three years with Centro de Compartimiento (CDC), Aided will graduate from high school.  Her father is a farmer and her mother is a housewife. Aided (pronounced A-ee-ded) is the following the footsteps of her cousin Maylit who completed her college degree while in our residential program CDC. Aided wants to study an engineering degree in renewable resources.  Unlike in the US where students know months ahead of time which school they will attend.  Aided will have her entrance exam at the end of June and not know if she has been accepted until later in July.  

 A university opened a branch in Union Hidalgo about 20 minutes from Juchitan. The program is new and was set up to prepare local young people to take over the work at the wind farms that are being built in the region.  Right now we have many workers from other parts of Mexico and abroad. We are not yet sure if all this development is a boon or a bane for our communities here. We hope that in the future with more local people involved the companies will create healthier relationships with the local communities.  

Thanks to the support of donors like you, Aided was able to complete high school and is now looking at a different future.  We asked her how many of the students from her middle school class in her village had completed high school and were going on to college.  She said only about 20% had finished high school and she was the only one with dreams of college.  Three of her classmates are married and already have children.  Aided loves her home village and wants to stay in the region, but she wants a different future where she and her family are not struggling day to day to make ends meet.  For farmers, the biggest issue is the rain too much or too little and the crop fails, last year her father invested in a new tomatoes farm but lost the crop due to draught.   

Aided's new area of study depends on the weather as well, the sun and the wind.  So far we have been lacking neither in the region.  Thank you for walking with our students as they dream new dreams, for themselves and their families. 

Wind Farms Near Juchitan
Wind Farms Near Juchitan

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This past month we have had a lot of movement among the residential students here at Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.  We had two first-year college students leave because their families could no longer pay the tuition at the private school where they had enrolled.  Ada was able to finish her first semester but Nalla was not.   Tuition may not seem high, it is about $100 -150 USD a month, but for families from rural areas, it is a challenge.   In town, someone with a vocation, like a carpenter, mason, or electrician can pull in up from 15-20 USD a day, but most other jobs only pay around 7-12 USD a day.  In rural areas most families do not have a steady income, they get a yearly sum when crops come in, eat what they grow and off-season the men leave home for day wage jobs. Most people in town and rural areas live week to week, sometimes day to day.  Financial planning is almost unheard of.  The two families thought they had plans to make it work, yet the expenses very quickly got out of hand, even with the support that CDC gives.  We need to evaluate very early and carefully a family's plans to pay for a private school.  

The two openings were advertised and filled almost immediately.  Two young women, both enrolled in their first year at the Normal in Ixtepec applied to the program.    Both had begun their first semester only to find that it was too expensive to rent a room and pay for their own board.  As a public school, the Normal has only a few fees, no tuition.  The problem is that it is controlled by Section 22 of the national teachers union. The union is powerful in Mexico and Section 22 is one of the most active and intransigent.  The union in our state of Oaxaca has the power to give out permanent teaching positions in the state and in the past students from the Normal have been given positions upon graduation.  This made the Normal very hard to get into and the union expects the students to join them in the marches, protests, school closings and strikes they use to pressure the state and national government. Unions are important and have a place in society, but Section 22 goes overboard, often striking just to show they can.  In 2006 and 2012 they closed down the Oaxaca school system for months. 

Now the Normal is reaping what it has sown as the students themselves have closed down the school, refusing to let staff in because the government has added a new fee to the national teacher certification process and the fourth year students don´t want to pay.  They have invited the other students to become involved stating that it will benefit them as well.  The school has been closed since December and our new students have not had classes.  In the teacher's school they were teaching the wrong things; division, the power of the mob, peer pressure and much more. 

Our two new students applied and were accepted into the program with the hope that the school would reopen soon.  That did not happen, and there is no end in sight.  One student has decided to wait out the closing at home and then perhaps reapply to our program, the second student has decided to try and transfer to another Normal in the state once the school reopens.  But for now, we felt we needed to open the spaces up for other students.  Our program is more than just a boarding place, between personal development courses, chore schedules, and community service, we can´t have students enrolled in our program but not staying at the house. 

There are so many challenges to our young people as they struggle to get a higher education.  Some problems we can help solve, but many we can not. Some times the teachings at their schools come into conflict with our own core values.   It has been a hard year so far, but we have opened up two spots again and expect them to fill soon.

Without your support, we could not continue our work with our young women.  We thank you for your support and asked that you consider giving a donation to support the students as we going into the spring semester.  

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Organization Information

Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.

Location: Juchitan, Oaxaca - Mexico
Website:
Project Leader:
Kristin Lietz
Juchitan, Oaxaca Mexico
$52,661 raised of $65,000 goal
 
589 donations
$12,339 to go
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