Empowering the Forgotten: Indigenous Women in Mexico
Indigenous women throughout Mexico suffer from tremendous poverty and discrimination, yet telling their story is anything but simple. On the one hand, Mexico is an upper middle income country with an average per capita income of nearly $10,000, is home to the world’s wealthiest man and is one of only two countries in Latin America that hold an A investment grade rating, a sign of just how good Mexico’s economic prospects are. On the other hand, driving in the mountains on the unpaved, treacherous roads outside of Juchitan, you will find small, almost forgotten communities, mostly indigenous, that do not have electricity, running water or health clinics and where youth walk hours every day to get to school. People struggle just to find enough to eat and employment opportunities are virtually nonexistent. This is the reality of the poorest of the poor in Mexico and it is these people that CDC serves.
Such popular campaigns as Girls Rising and Half the Sky have raised awareness to the plight of women worldwide, linking girl’s education with change in the lives of their family, community and ultimately countries. In a world of limited funding and tremendous need, investing in girl’s education is clearly a smart investment.
Yet, this is exactly where it gets complicated in Mexico and why programs like CDC are so badly needed. Today in Mexico the gender gap in education has been closed, nationally women complete primary, secondary and even college at levels on par with their male counterparts. Yet, according to the World Economic Forum, Mexico ranks 89th out of 135 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index. Women still lag behind men in terms of labor force participation, representation in leadership positions and in terms of wages, earning only 80 cents for every dollar men earn. The issue is much more complex than education; it is a question of how women are perceived in society and how they see themselves.
Life for indigenous people is even harder. They have a long history of being marginalized by both the government and mainstream Mexican society, frequently being denied healthcare, education and employment based on nothing more than their race. Rural, indigenous communities are the poorest in Mexico, with quality of life indicators significantly lower than the general Mexican population. Without a doubt, the poorest, most disenfranchised people in Mexico are indigenous women living in rural areas.
That’s what makes CDC such a wonderful program. Women can be powerful change makers, but it will take more than education to change the opportunities for the poorest of the poor in Mexico, it will take empowerment. Through constant and consistent emotional support and encouragement, leadership training and service, that is exactly what CDC does: it empowers young women to believe in themselves, follow their dreams and ultimately be a source of inspiration and strength in their families and communities. Little by little, this is how Mexican women will lead the charge for change in their country. If you’d like to participate with them, you can donate securely here: http://www.centerforsharing.org/what-we-do/programs/mexico/
Melanie Lopez-Grewal is the Director of Mexico Programs for the Vista Hermosa Foundation, the charitable arm of Broetje orchards. The Foundation aims to equip, empower and serve those most in need, with primary focus in Mexico, Haiti, Kenya, and India. Melanie’s work focuses on managing their Mexico grantee profile and connecting workers in the orchard, who are primarily from Mexico, with projects there. You can learn more on their website: http://www.firstfruits.com/vista-hermosa-foundation.html