Adolescents from Mexican indigenous communities assert their rights
“Voices of young adolescents: adolescence, ethnicities and communities in Mexico” was launched as a joint publication of UNICEF and CIESAS
Mexico City, 17 August 2011 - Mexican adolescents from different indigenous communities express their opinions, experiences, ideas, feelings, doubts, dilemmas, complaints and concerns. These are all captured in a multimedia publication produced by UNICEF and the Mexican academic institution Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS).
The publication aims to promote participation by adolescents from indigenous communities, and to raise awareness about their life and the problems they face. The project is part of the continuing efforts by UNICEF Mexico to promote policies in favour of children and adolescents, especially those who live in the most vulnerable and disadvantaged situations – such as the ones from indigenous groups.
Over 200 adolescents participated in the exercise. They live in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Jalisco, Morelos, Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Veracruz, as well as in Mexico City, and one group among the Mexican community in the United States of America. They belong to different Mexican indigenous ethnicities including Choles, Huicholes, Mixes, Mixtecos, Nahuas, Rarámuris, Tlapanecos, Tzeltales, Wixáritari, Zapotecos and Zoques. They were the authors of the publication, with each of 13 chapters containing work by them.
In the presence of Zapoteco adolescents living in Mexico City, and others of the Mixes and Mixteco ethnicities from the Oaxaca and Morelos states respectively, the publlication “Voices of young adolescents: adolescence, ethnicites and communities in Mexico” was presented to the public today as the product of a participatory exercise through which the adolescents articulated their views and thoughts about their rights, their identity, their lives, and their major concerns – with the objective to be heard well beyond their communities.
“This project, which gave birth to various initiatives owned and implemented by adolescents from indigenous communities, is invaluable to us – to adults and to other young people across Mexico”, said Susana Sottoli, Representative of UNICEF Mexico, while speaking to adolescents at the launch event. “We can see that your rights are not just about acknowledging and valuing your ancestral roots. You go a lot further: you correctly assert your right to have access to the latest culture, science, and technologies that your country can offer”.
Through texts, photographs, video productions, works of visual art, songs, and other expressions of their abilities, the adolescents conveyed that they want to be heard and want their voices to count. They demand full rights of participation, in order to take the lead in improving living conditions for themselves and for their communities.
This publication, which will be shared with policymakers, opinion leaders and other interested parties, as well as with the general public, is part of UNICEF’s commitment to promote policies and social responsibility in favour of adolescents from indigenous communities. Events are already planned in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Yucatán, where UNICEF’s implementing parteners, together with the adolescents who contributed to the publication, will use this publication as a key instrument to advocate for appropriate attention and responses by public authorities and civil society towards the problems affecting indigenous adolescents.
Since 2010, UNICEF and CIESAS have been working on this project, collecting voices of adolescents from indigenous communities throughout the country from very different backgrounds: youth from rural and urban contexts, migrants in the United States of America, and itinerant farm workers. Through its methodology, the publication placed special focus on the egalitarian participation of adolescents not only as members of indigenous groups with distinct ethnicities and languages, but also simply as young members of today’s varied Mexican population. The publication was supported by Spain’s Agency for International Cooperation and Development, and by the sponsors Laboratorios Liomont and Comercial Mexicana.
In Mexico, just over 10 million people (9.8% of its population) are considered indigenous. They live primarily in highly marginalized areas, to the point that 70% of Mexicans speaking indigenous languages live in these areas. Members of indigenous communities have lower average income than the rest of Mexicans. Their poverty and marginalization are evident from lower salaries, lower educational levels, and their limited access to public services. The Mexican states with the highest presence of indigenous people are Yucatán (65.5%), Oaxaca (55.7%), Quintana Roo (45.6%), and Chiapas (30.9%). The indigenous population of Mexico, and especially its children and adolescents, is the group with greatest shortcomings in their human development, and facing the most significant obstacles in the exercise of their fundamental rights.