San Cristobal de las Casas is the largest city in Chiapas, a southern state that has some of the lower socioeconomic indicators in the country (e.g. the adolescent fertility rate in Chiapas in 2015 was 77 per 1,000 , whereas the national rate for Mexico was 62). San Cristobal has a large indigenous population—45% of its 201,000 inhabitants consider themselves ethnically indigenous and 32% speak an indigenous language. Racism against indigenous populations is rampant. San Cristobal has a high level of school dropout—30% of youth age 15-17 do not attend school, and of those youth, two out of three are female. Adolescent pregnancy is high (almost one in five births in Chiapas in 2015 was to an adolescent mother ) and deeply engrained machista social norms reinforce traditional gender stereotypes and naturalize domestic violence. A large number of children and adolescents in Chiapas live in conditions where their basic rights are violated—they are invisible to society and cannot access certain services because they do not have birth certificates, drop out of school, live in violent environments, and do not know about the possible consequences of risky behaviors that may affect their life prospects.
Founded in the state of Chiapas in 1997, Melel Xojobal took its name from the Tsotsil language, translating into “True light.” In its formative years, Melel Xojobal focused on providing educational programs for street children. Since then Melel Xojobal has expanded its mission to focus on defending the rights of marginalized and at-risk indigenous youth. It believes in the promotion of five core youth rights that directly affect the quality of life of indigenous youth in Chiapas: health, education, protection from all types of abuse, decent work, and freedom of expression and association.
EMpower’s 2nd grant to Melel Xojobal A.C. will provide in-school workshops on sexual and reproductive rights and gender equity for 215 indigenous high school students in an effort to combat unwanted teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence. Melel will also provide ongoing educational support for 25 indigenous youth to prevent school dropout.
Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.