Feedback, fieldwork and inequality in Mexico

2020-2021 fieldwork addresses inequality in Mexico at the nexus of our global pandemic, worsening conditions for women, and local feedback. 

Global and national context; a peek inside…

Mexican inequality persists despite increased social spending. El Economista, 22 de septiembre de 2019.  This is particularly true for women, especially indigenous women, confronting what is known as machismo and the pandemic, Jorge Ramos, “In Mexico, Women Break the Silence Against Femicide, New York Times, 6 March 2020. Indeed, country-wide, the four-pronged threat of being (i) poor, (ii) indigenous, (iii) a woman during the (iv) pandemic leads to disproportionate increases in health challenges and decreases in access to water, justice, and protection from domestic violence. “Mujeres indigenas en contexto Covid-19 ¿Cómo les impacta?, UNESCO, 2020. These inequalities pre-ceded the pandemic. In our Region, rural indigenous women average three years of education and at least 30% are illiterate, this compared with the female national average of 14.6 years and a 6% illiteracy rate. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2019), Data Centre.

The problem we address

We serve rural indigenous women and their communities in the Region to confront this inequality. Our method centers on leader development, one-to-one engagement, and communal understanding and organizing. A central theme of Paolo Freire’s thinking on Educación Popular is “whoever teaches learns, and whoever learns teaches.” PSYDEH agrees and goes one step further; whoever “teaches” and “learns” leads informed, collective, sustainable actions.

That which we confront, what we do, reflects “local demands” from early 2020 and recent field visits after six months of not being able to travel in our work areas. Among the feedback we hear, the demands around which we organize ongoing work, are

– On economic conditions, one Otomi-woman leader states that “There is little money”. Another woman explains “[There is]… very little work, no one wants to hire us.” Another leader shares that since February 2020, “…[E]verything rose in price, but] there is no work to pay for what we need to]buy.”

– On cost and access to the internet through their phones (there are no networks), one woman leader states, “I have to charge $200 pesos every week so that my daughter can study (in a region in which the monthly salary is between $1000 and $1680 MXN).” Another woman states “… I put in about $50 pesos a week so that my daughter can see the virtual classes.”

– On needed micro-impact projects for making an important impact on families and communities, one woman demands “A sustainable food and education project with free internet for the communities.” Another explains that she’d like to see a project that “[i]mproves production [and] … the commercialization of embroidery”. And still believes that a project focusing on “animal husbandry” would be useful.

Why women?

Indigenous women are a majority in the Otomí-Tepehua region of Hidalgo, our current target work area. They are central to families, communities, and cultural traditions. We know that women lead sustained progress through their roles as protectors of rights and law, policy advocates, and drivers of social and economic development. Thus, our work aims to train and organize women to become impact makers via their own network of organizations forged through an unprecedented series of regional forums and working pursuant to their own unprecedented development agenda.

Why now do we pursue the intervention described below?

Our intervention is an extension of PSYDEH’s multi-year program model explained HERE and based on the aforementioned “Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat.” field exercises with local partners when we asked:

How does PSYDEH maintain indigenous women’s participation in our effective, but slow-moving rights-based program when they lack the resources to sustain participation and impact, especially during COVID-19?

On balance, empowering local, cooperative economic participation is an answer, a timely antidote to paternalistic culture and the lack of female agency to solve communal inequality during and post-COVID-19.  

What are work objectives over the next 16 months?

Empower indigenous women to lead sustainable development of their own communities, especially important during the pandemic. Specifically, we will produce six different work mechanisms in pursuit of these three objectives:

(1) PROVIDE direct, consistent, and personal human contact and professional support to indigenous women and their network of organizations.

(2) EMPOWER indigenous women partners to be the leaders and businesswomen they are, seen by themselves and their male and local government official peers as having an important, needed voice in their own communities’ economic development.

(3) STRENGTHEN indigenous women’s communities in the face of COVID-19, including through a trustworthy information series and workshop-training program on the use of local resources to gain food security.


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