The Municipality of Villa de Zaachila is located in the peri-urban outskirts of Oaxaca, next to the city’s largest garbage dump. Once informal settlements, only 30% of households have running water. 76% of the population lives in poverty, with 25% of these in extreme poverty. Many people in Zaachila are informal recyclers and waste pickers, which exposes them to a myriad of health risks. There are no trash collection services within the community, which leads to improper disposal of waste and many families burn trash as a source of heat. There is lack of access to fresh, nutritious food, which leads to high rates of malnutrition, especially among children and young people. Members of this community experience significant discrimination due to living near a landfill, and without opportunities to improve their life circumstances, many young people feel hopeless about the future.
Compounded upon this is the fact that safety issues and adherence to traditional gender norms in Zaachila limit the mobility and life prospects of adolescent girls. Public spaces are deemed too dangerous for them (harassment is common and there have recently been incidents of rape and trafficking of girls) and girls are often not allowed to leave their houses unless accompanied by a family member. Families expect girls to take care of their younger siblings and do the majority of household chores, while boys play sports and engage in other after-school activities. The community considers adolescent girls ages 14-15 to be old enough to have children and because there is little access to sexual and reproductive health and rights education, many girls in the community get pregnant before they turn 18. Young men in the community are taught that to be “masculine” is to be violent and aggressive, particularly in regards to their sexuality, which negatively affects young women. With few positive role models, young women look to pregnancy as a way to transition into adulthood, and young men engage in risky behaviour such as doing drugs and joining gangs.
Founded in 2009, SiKanda is a non-profit organization that works with highly marginalized communities including waste pickers living in and around Oaxaca’s largest municipal garbage dump to address in creative ways critical issues such as inadequate waste disposal, sanitation, health issues including malnutrition, low levels of education and skills, and lack of employment opportunities. It takes a holistic approach in working with communities that have been largely ignored by the
government and most local organizations (which lack expertise in these issue areas), and supports individuals to become productive members of society. Its work with adolescent youth supports them to improve life skills, increase self-esteem, challenge traditional gender norms, reduce violence and become change makers in their communities. Co-founder and Director José Carlos León Vargas has 14 years of experience working with international NGOs in Latin America, Asia and Europe, and has worked in 35 countries supervising and collaborating with human rights organizations to combat poverty through sustainable development.
EMpower’s 4th grant to SiKanda would improve the health and wellbeing of 350 young people through interactive workshops to reduce violence, promote gender equity, improve sexual and reproductive health knowledge, and strengthen their self-esteem and hopes for the future. SiKanda would also work with parents, teachers and local authorities to create a more supportive environment for youth and lay the foundation for future program replication through working with a consultant to evaluate the program.
Primary Location: Oaxaca
Funded Since: 2014
Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.