Mexico: Breakthrough Partnerships with National Government

Margarita leads VCA 1000-Mexico.jpg

Update to the Global Board
(April 2009)

Overview

Following rigorous reflection on what we learned from 2008, The Hunger Project (THP)-Mexico has revised our strategy to refocus on the territories where we can justify our presence, responding to precise criteria that reflect our three pillars. At the same time, we are fostering a dialog with SEDESOL (Secretaría de Desarrollo Social - National Social Development Ministry) at the three levels of government that is consistent with our three pillars.

Our goal is to establish objective and robust evidence that our model works so that we can make it available throughout Mexico, to other entities in Latin America and worldwide.

There are distinct zones in our work in Mexico:

  • North: In Zacatecas - six municipios, 24 communities; and in Durango - two municipios and 10 communities.
  • South: Chiapas - at the women's cooperative J'Pas Joloviletik, where we mostly are working on empowering indigenous women in San Cristobal de las Casas and Ejido 11 de Abril, municipios Unión Juarez, which is a former successful agricultural coffee model of the 1950s and a model on how globalization affected the community and created a backlash into poverty.

Sadly, insecurity has permeated the country, as the infamous "ZETAS," a group of former military men organized to perform all sorts of crimes from drug dealing to kidnapping, are active everywhere. The efforts of the federal government are well known, yet the official figures do not reflect the current climate of insecurity that exists both in urban and rural areas.

While we already had good alliances at the municipal and state levels, we have achieved a breakthrough in forging alliances with government at the national level. We have now established two forms of partnership with SEDESOL:

  • In the state of Zacatecas, we have been granted the official status of being an "Agency for Local Development," which means SEDESOL will directly fund us to implement our program;
  • We have successfully created a pilot program in the state of Hidalgo that will launch in April. This program, initially formulated during Jill Lester's visit in November, will have us train SEDESOL staff to utilize the methodology of THP to catalyze a bottom-up process of rural development in all sectors.

Regarding alliances with other key actors of society, we are at work with the Institute for Social Development which is the branch of ITESM (Technological Institute of Superior Studies of Monterrey) that intends to generate social development throughout the country. We have been working in partnership with ITESM leadership to incorporate THP principles into their structure. In April, the coordinators of their Centers for Community of Learning (CCAs) will be trained as catalysts (animators) and start the first steps of mobilization.

Details on Progress

Areas of Achievement

Revision and update of the actions taken in 2008 based on the three pillars to develop a cutting-edge, strategic action plan

Final document understood and owned by each and every team member of THP. The same process of ownership is taking place in the field.

Mobilization experience

4,174 participants in 157 Vision, Commitment and Action Workshops (VCAWs). 19 catalyst trainings were held. Community actions or initiatives on MDGs: Health, 2; Environment, 8; Income generation, 36, Infrastructure, 13.

Women's awareness of their rights in Zacatecas

53 women from different municipios participated in workshops that took place in collaboration with the Institute for Zacatecas Women. Women's rights workshops were conducted to commemorate International Women's Day.

Women's empowerment in Enrique Flores Magon, Durango

The local women's group that manufactures and sells clothes joined with THP staff to celebrate International Women´s Day. The women led and created their own workshop to talk about the events, which culminated in this commemoration with the rest of the women in the community.

Women's empowerment in Oriente, Durango

Women are having "Ejido" (cooperative) conversations on women's rights; traditionally this was not appropriate. They are also participating in assemblies.

Empowering indigenous women

After a long history of depending on external agencies to manage any aspect of their business, the women are becoming more independent.

Sustainability of the cooperative J'pas Joloviletik and ownership of their own legal process

30 indigenous women have assumed new positions in the council of the cooperative in Chiapas. Also, they are in the process of fulfilling the legal requirements for the sustainability of the cooperative.

Chiapas cooperative computer skills trainingChiapas cooperative computer skills training

Ten women finished a training in basic computer skills.

Towards community mobilization in Chiapas

VCAW translated to Tzotzil, and the first VCAW was held.

Stronger alliance with the state government

Renewal and expansion of agreement endorsed and signed by the Governor Amalia García in Zacatecas. It grew from 2 to 10 government agencies.

Areas of Challenge

The virtual store is active but not yet generating the expected income

EBay has proven to be an expensive medium for sale. Other alternatives are being tested. However, the relationship with the women has been reinforced, and they are taking solid steps towards formalizing their business.

Scale up mobilization in communities

By the end of 2009, we had worked in 113 communities. However in a rigorous examination, we were far from having real presence in each and every community. We had 519 catalysts, but few had given VCAWs. We now have a new, more inspiring version of the VCAW. We learned that one municipal coordinator cannot, in the first year, generate sufficient mobilization as far as expansion and depth towards sustainability. The profile of the coordinator requires a higher level of communications and skills to build relationships and to work towards a long-term vision.

Also, given the geographical conditions and dispersion of communities, some clusters might have five communities, some less. There are some communities that do not fit our current criteria, and we are therefore taking the necessary steps to withdraw from those communities.

Partnerships

Ongoing Partnerships

  • National Institute for Women (INMUJERES, Instituto Nacional para las Mujeres) granted us funds for the Women's Cooperative J'pas Joliviletik "Hands that Weave," to create a virtual store.
  • Lagunero Council of NGOs (CONSEJO LAGUNERO DE ONG's) gathers civil society organizations of the La Laguna region in Durango; we have participated in it since 2006. The Lagunero Council serves as the connecting actor in transparency granting the resources that the municipality has, by law, assigned to the organized civil society.

New Partnerships

  • Institute of Zacatecas Women (INMUNZA) designated one of their staff to work exclusively with THP, an already trained catalyst, Bertha Goytia.
  • Municipal and "ejido" agreements: there is a written agreement for each and every one of the municipios where we are at work in Durango and Zacatecas and also with the "ejido" authorities.
  • CDI (National Commission for Development of the Indigenous Towns) is at work in the creation of the Internet site without cost for the cooperative store J´Pas Joloviletik in Chiapas.
  • Fair Trade Mexico (Comercio Justo México) to certify best quality and fair prices of the handicrafts that the indigenous women manufacture. Given that there is no precedent in Mexico, this opens doors for other cooperatives and communities in the country.
  • Zacatecas Government Agreement: we sat down with the Women's Institute of Zacatecas (INMUNZA), Agency for the Integral Family Development (DIF) and Youth of Zacatecas (INJUZA) to design a specific action plan derived from our missions and mutual plan actions for 2009. This has and still requires very well invested time so that the actions follow a long term sustainable plan, congruent with our principles.

Broader Awareness and Advocacy

  • The signing of the Zacatecas Agreement with the State Government was covered by local newspapers. The agreement was signed by the official representative of the governor, Amalia García, and our President and CEO, Jill Lester.
  • The magazine Psychologies included an article on THP's approach to women's empowerment commemorating International Women's Day.
  • Mexican Institute of Radio conducted a radio interview regarding our work, focusing on our bottom-up approach.
  • The Ibero-American University used our work as a model to focus on bottom-up and women's empowerment.
  • Forum for Social Society Organizations used our work as a model to focus on bottom-up and women's empowerment.
  • Mexico Migrante, regarding Zacatecas migration.
  • Given the participation of our Country Director on the Citizen Advisory Board for SEDESOL, the organization has had access to important information, other organizations and forums. Thus, the relationship with federal government continues to be strengthened.

Recent Innovations

Innovations in Impact Assessment

  • There is now a person accountable for the outcomes of each of the three pillars.
  • Our central office dashboard reflects the main key indicators of mobilization and other activities like grant proposals so that the vision and its key indicators are always present and alive.

Innovations in Developing a Learning Culture

  • Regarding the implementation of a learning culture, we created a strategic team, which holds monthly meetings in which a shared understanding is continually discussed.
  • A process has started in which manuals from the VCAW, Catalysts Training and Training of Trainers (TOT) are being revised and updated, taking into account the mobilization experience.
  • As part of our mobilization efforts, we now have a system established to spot and include all key groups from the communities in the mobilization.

Impact Assessment

The metrics to fulfill the promises for mobilization were number of trainings and catalysts; number of clusters and number of villages.

For the next six months we will be tracking the results per pillar:

  • Mobilization: VCAWs, trainings, TOTs, community action meetings, and actions and initiatives toward the MDGs;
  • Gender equality: campaigns, participation of women in mobilization; and
  • Alliances with governments: VCAWs for government, trainings.