Our Voices are Stopping Violence. Is Yours? will work to improve the lives of Tzeltal indigenous youth and adults in Chiapas, Mexico by reducing violence and overcoming shame and stigma. In this project, communities practice speaking about shameful subjects like violence, underage marriage, and reproductive health not by being pressured to talk about their own lives, but by talking about the lives of story characters, whose experiences mirror their own.
In 2018, local researchers began conducting interviews with Tzeltal youth and adults. They are learning that growing up, many young people witnessed and experienced violence, and parents rarely talked about sexual and reproductive health. What young people know comes from peers and social media. When youth feel shame from adults instead of understanding, they are at increased risk for many problems ranging from reproductive problems to physical, psychological, and emotional abuse.
Started by Dr. Kathleen Cash in 1991, the Community Narrative Practice (CNP) methodology has been successful in helping communities from Haiti to Uganda to Bangladesh confront taboo subjects. With CNP, communities hear or read the cultural stories created especially for them, and then discuss the stories, propose alternative endings, and share ideas about new characters. The process creates trust, confidence, and compassion.
While Amextra has worked with Tzeltal communities in Mexico since 2014, we have now reached a level of trust with the communities that allows us to discuss deeper topics. The women, men, and children that participate will be able to voice their opinions and decrease violence and abuse from the root causes. This allows children to grow up in healthy households, where they can learn to be empathetic and confident in using their voice to help others and themselves.