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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
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

Attachments:

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.  

Greysi at Graduation
Greysi at Graduation

We are pleased that Greysi, one of our former students, is back and active at Centro De Compartimiento (CDC).  But now she is not receiving services but giving back to CDC.  Greysi came to CDC eight years ago to go to high school.   Greysi is from a small fishing town on the coast of Oaxaca.  She was raised by her grandparents and her aunt after her mother died and then her father left when she was a small child.  After her grandfather had a stroke and could no longer work, the family did not have the money to send Greysi to school.  Greysi's family heard of CDC's program through another young woman in her town who was a resident student at CDC, and they came to visit the program.  Greysi was accepted into the program, and she started high school with a specialty in nursing. 

It was not an easy adjustment, on the surface a happy young woman, she had trouble with motivation, often missing chores and getting up too late for school.  Although cared for by her family, the loss of her mother and abandonment of her father were open wounds that were interfering with her ability to move forward.  At CDC she found a place not only to go to school but also a place to share her story, heal her wounds and find other young women who had lived and survived tragedy in their lives.  

She finished high school and was accepted into Universidad del Istmo nursing program.  She left CDC when one of her cousins came to town to study high school, and her family asked her to look out for her cousin.  She lived near CDC and often visited, as a mentor to the younger students and to keep in touch with her friends still in the program.

Greysi graduated from nursing school and is doing her year of National Service at the Military Hospital in Ixtaltpec, Oaxaca.   She is considering her options after her year of service including enlisting in the Mexican Navy as a nurse.    This fall we invited her to be on our the board of CDC. Her experiences in the program and the community will be of great benefit to our programs.  We are so happy that she had decided to join our work.  She is excited to be able to give back now that she is firmly on the road to her career. 

We thank you all for your continued support of the young women here in Mexico, helping girls like Greysi get an education and then become active members in their community to help others.  As the holiday season approaches please consider a year-end gift to support our program.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding the program.  

The staff and students at CDC wish you all a blessed holiday season and a very Happy New Year. 

Greysi in CDC course in 2011 (far left)
Greysi in CDC course in 2011 (far left)
New school year new faces
New school year new faces

This week will be one year since the 8.2 earthquake hit our region causing massive damage.  As we come upon this anniversary we sat down as a group to see what have been the effects of the quake, where we are today and what comes next.

The first question that most people voice about the earthquake is "When is it going to stop?"  Just this past Sunday we had a 4.9 aftershock with an epicenter less than 5 miles from Juchitan.  On October 25th the National Seismological Survey had registered 39 aftershocks from the Mexico City earthquake of September 19 and over 9500 aftershocks from the earthquake of September 7.  Today the predominant emotion in the region is fear.  Now each time we have an aftershock we pause in fear, asking ourselves "Is it a small quake or  just the beginning of something bigger?" No one feels completely safe and there are many rumors about the future and new and more terrible earthquakes.   To the extreme that one rumor states that the entire region is now permanently unsafe and uninhabitable and that the government is going to relocate entire cities. The lack of information is difficult, a google search about the quake and aftershocks reveal that indeed our quake was unusual in origin and strength and a mystery scientists want to investigate.

Tension, anger are the second most common emotions.  Many people have been able to rebuild in some way and housing is no longer so hard to find, but business has not reopened, so jobs are scarce and many people are frustrated at the lack of support from the government.  Much was promised and little delivered. 

In this continued chaos, Centro de Compartimiento continues our commitment to rebuild spirits and provide an emotional haven.  Not just for our residential students, but for other people in town as well.  

With the anniversary looming we have begun the new school year.  We have filled the house in Juchitan with students,  It sustained little damage in the quake, but we still cannot use our housing in El Espinal so we have space for fewer students. Most schools are still in temporary buildings or using alternative spaces.

We were pleased that our students returned and that more students applied for the program.  We were afraid that many students would not return out of fear, but most told us that they have no other options.  They are happy to be back but feel that they are not quite up to speed in their school work, having rushed through many topics to complete the year. Many school teachers have told me that the kids have taken their start of year evaluations and the majority are not at the level that should be.  

It has been a hard year and will continue to be difficult as the region slowly rebuilds.  We thank you for all your support this past year and hope that you will continue to support our program and the young women who aspire to a better life through education and personal development. 

Supporting one another in hard times
Supporting one another in hard times

When an organization fills out a request for a grant, the grant maker always asks how many people will benefit from the program.  Usually, the direct beneficiaries are easy to count.  You write something like; we will have 100 students in reading circles over the next year.   The next question is a bit harder, it asks about indirect beneficiaries. How many people will your program effect indirectly?  With our program, we usually count the parents of our students because they will have a decreased financial burden because of the support we give in housing and food. Those numbers are hard to predict, and it is even harder to predict how people will benefit yet sometimes those effects are amazing. 

The names and family data have been altered to due to the sensitive nature of events.   

Elena wants to continue her college education, last month her family told her that there was no way they could come up with the money to support her, even with the help of Centro de Compartimiento.  It would not be impossible find someone to give Elena a scholarship to cover the costs of her education, but we have found that it is vital to keep the family involved and responsible for their daughter's education.  So we set out to help Elena look at her options.  During this time one of Elena's younger sisters, Chelo, a middle school student, decided to run away with her boyfriend.  Chelo is 14, her boyfriend 17.  On hearing this Elena went back to her village and persuaded her parents to go and talk to her sister and bring her home.  They went to the home of the young man and asked to talk to their daughter.  Chelo told them she regretted her decision and wanted to return home.  When they informed the young man he stated plainly, "But I have already used her."  His claim was that he had already had sex with her, therefore, she was his.  Virginity is extremely important in the local culture and the implication was that no one else would ever want her now.  Thousands of cases of rape and sexual abuse go unreported every year because no family wants the world to know their daughter may not be a virgin. 

This dilemma paralyzed the family with fear for their daughter's future, but they took her home anyway. Something, not all families will do.  Then Elena suggested the unthinkable, tell even more people. "Let's go to Centro de Compartimiento, tell our story and see if they have any ideas." Amazingly they came.  Elena came back with Mom, Dad, and Chelo to where she felt safe to talk about her life and the difficult issue the family faced.   Mom and Dad were open enough to talk about the problem, they had nowhere else to go, no one else to talk to, no one else to trust.  We were honored to sit and listen to the family and support their decision to take Chelo back.

Today Chelo is with her family and in school, the hard road is not over, it is just beginning,  She has to live in her the village where people know her mistakes, of course, this is only a problem for her, not her boyfriend.  As an indirect benefit of having Elena in our program, the family could recover their daughter from a situation that would normally have lead to a marriage and feel supported in their decision to break with tradition and deal with the stigma in the village for now.  Chelo came last weekend to hang out with her sister and the other students Centro de Compartimiento and soak in the environment and Elena has been going home on other weekends to be with Chelo and help her.  Chelo has been able to talk about the difficulties in the village and the stress in her home because of her parent's marital problems.   Our only message to her, we care about you, you are loved. 

An unexpected turn is that one of Elena's aunts has decided to support her to continue college, Mom and Dad agreed to try and find some extra cash as well.  They were impressed at Elena's maturity and poise and decided that her decisions were sound.  

We cannot tell from one year to the next where our young women are going.  We can't say Chelo is home to stay and won't continue to make mistakes.  We all make mistakes, hopefully, we get back on track and try again.  Our project has the short-term goal of helping young women stay in school.  But our long-term goal is to support them to make good decisions about their lives, in the future give back to their community.  Elena is on a good track, now a mentor and example to her younger sister.

Without your support, we could not do this work.  We thank you on behalf of the young women whose lives you help to improve.  Over the summer we hope you think about our young women as they go home for break, and consider a donation to help with the new school year.    

 

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Organization Information

Centro de Compartimiento, A.C.

Location: Juchitan, Oaxaca - Mexico
Website:
Project Leader:
Kristin Lietz
Juchitan, Oaxaca Mexico
$27,765 raised of $30,000 goal
 
442 donations
$2,235 to go
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