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New Courier. 2005 May; 47-49.María Pérez Pérez, from the district of Zinacantán, never thought she would be able to learn to hold a pencil at 48, or pick up an exercise book and scan the lines to make sense of its content. "I didn't go to school when I was a girl because I had to look after the animals, and help my parents, who were very poor. But now I regret never having made the effort to learn," says María, who like the vast majority of indigenous women, only speaks her mother tongue. But she is one of the 345 women talking literacy classes, thanks to UNESCO's support of the Alternativa Solidaria Chiapas (Al Sol), a non-governmental organization that provides microcredits to poor women so they can raise their own and their families' living standards. One of the 25 groups of women enrolled in the literacy programme holds its classes in Zinacantán, a municipality located around 10 kilometers from the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and a stronghold of the Tzotzils, one of the main ethnic groups to have descended from the Mayans. Every fortnight, around a dozen women, all of them adults with children, meet for an hour's class given by their teacher, Rosalinda Bolom, who is herself Tzotzil and speaks in their language - without which her work would be impossible. (excerpt)
JICA NEWSLETTER. 1996 Nov; 6(4):7.Girls Education Project, a two-year program sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), seeks to address the educational needs of Mayan girls in rural Guatemala. The program is being implemented under the framework of the Japan-US Common Agenda for Cooperation in Global Perspectives. Preliminary fieldwork revealed the importance of ensuring that entire communities, including teachers and parents, appreciate the human right of rural girls to a basic education. The project team will conduct three-day workshops in each of the four pilot states in 1997 to discuss teaching methods, materials, and curricula to promote girls' participation and improve their achievement levels. Also planned is a three-day national seminar involving governmental officials and representatives from the public and private sectors, nongovernmental organizations, professional groups, universities, and ethnic and cultural groups. The bilingual/bicultural method selected for the intervention seeks to implement basic education for Mayan girls in both Spanish and the four main Mayan languages. Another focus is to encourage the students to maintain pride in their cultural heritage.
[The population and development problem of indigenous peoples] Problematica de poblacion y desarrollo en pueblos indigenas.
In: Estudios sociodemograficos de pueblos indigenas, [compiled by] United Nations. Centro Latinoamericano de Demografia [CELADE], Confederacion Indigena del Oriente Boliviano, United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA], Instituto de Cooperacion Iberoamericana. Santiago, Chile, CELADE, 1994 Dec. 391-402. (Serie E No. 40)The National Report on Population prepared by Bolivia for the 1994 World Population Conference in Cairo called attention to the economic and social problems of the general Bolivian population. Despite scarcity of data, it is known that the status of the Indian population of Bolivia is relatively disadvantaged. Many indigenous peoples in the lowland area and in the rural highlands lack medical services and basic health infrastructure. Health professionals are not trained in ethnocultural aspects of care, and little respect or recognition is given to indigenous traditions of health care. High illiteracy rates attest to the marginal status of indigenous groups. Bilingual education is limited, and curricula are not geared to the special needs of indigenous groups. Despite their strong identification with the land, many indigenous groups lack secure title to their ancestral territories. Invasions or alienation of lands encourage migration, placing the population at risk of cultural disintegration. Indigenous populations with nomadic ways are in danger of extinction as they fail to encounter free lands. Invasion of indigenous territories by impoverished nonindigenous groups threatens ecological balance. Many indigenous groups, especially the smaller ones, are vulnerable to pressures from outside and are in need of assistance tailored to their special needs. All cooperative interventions with indigenous groups must respect their identity and traditions. The UN Population Fund has provided technical and financial assistance to Bolivia since 1972 to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality, adolescent pregnancy, and abortion, to improve knowledge and attitudes related to reproductive health, and to improve the conditions of women.
JOURNALEN SYKEPLEIEN. 1993 Aug 10; 81(12):19.The experience of working in a project of the Pentecostal Friends' outer mission funded by NORAD among Indians in Canindeyu, Paraguay, is recounted. There was no clinic, but medical consultations were performed at schools or at the homes of the Indians. Much of the time was spent on preventive work and the teaching of health care. Most people in the forests had never met a doctor, and one had to diagnose and treat according to one's best abilities. The people knew a lot of medicinal plants, yet they were fascinated by modern drugs. The objective was to find local health care workers who could understand and retain health education. The pattern of sickness was different from that found in Norway. Sometimes children did not have an appetite, but mostly they were anemic and infested with intestinal worms. Recurring problems had to do with washing babies and general hygiene. It was difficult to teach about hygiene when the watering hole was 1-2 km away, the only possessions were a kettle, and no plates, blankets or pencils were available. Pregnancy care was another problem. Indian women had a natural concept of pregnancy and birth, and they were not particularly concerned about the exact time. They did not like to travel to give birth; most got help from a relative or friend who had some experience and knew that she had to wash her hands thoroughly for this proceeding. Some women wanted to give birth at a specialized clinic, but they did not know which one to travel to. Children got tetanus vaccinations because of the frequency of tetanus among the newborn. When a patient was hospitalized in an acute situation, transportation had to be secured and the necessary drugs for treatment also provided, because the Indians had little opportunity to get them. Whenever an infusion bag was needed, it was also advisable to procure that in order to be able to proceed quickly with the treatment. It was difficult to travel in the rain, even when the distance was not far. It has also happened that fences without gates blocked the roads because the owner did not want traffic through his forest or fields. The bicycle and medical bag had to be lifted over the fence, which was especially difficult when a heavy tropical storm was gathering.
Grass roots, herbs, promoters and preventions: a reevaluation of contemporary international health care planning. The Bolivian case.
Social Science and Medicine. 1983; 17(17):1281-9.In evaluating a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project in Bolivia, the author argues that the program unwittingly contributed to the situation that created Bolivia's political problems. A 5-year pilot project which covered 39 villages and colonies in the Montero district in the state of Santa Cruz began in 1975 and was completed in 1980. In 1980 the project was "deobligated" when all but essential economic aid to Bolivia was halted following a political coup. The pilot project was based on 1) community participation through health care; 2) a referral system from health post of the promotor to the center with an auxiliary nurse midwife, to secondary and tertiary care in hospitals by physicians; 3) an emphasis on preventive medicine; and 4) the use of traditional medicine along with other therapy by the promotor. Although these concepts sound appropriate, they are in fact derived from contemporary thought in advanced industrial societies. The assumptions about social reality that are inherent in these plans actually misconstrue Bolivian society. The unintended consequences of the project actually diminish rural health care. A difference between the Western health planner's conception and the Bolivian conception--of community, of effective referral systems, of preventive and indigenous medicines--can have the effect of producing a health care program that has little resemblance to what was originally intended. The Bolivian elite actually manipulated the USAID health care programs through hegemony in the villages. The Jeffersonian concept of community is not applicable in Bolivia where resources are only exchanged through personal contacts. In villages of multiple class or ethnic groups or both or in villages with close ties or histories of ties with larger, more cosmopolitan groups, multiple different interests exist. These work against each other to prevent the very cooperation envisioned by the health care programs. The author suggests that developed countries should consider native ideologies, native social relations, and indigenous medicine more sensitively in design.