I am overwhelmed and excited to share with you the experience we recently had in México distributing the kits that CEDEJO received from Lethbridge South Team, an Alberta DfG team in Canada.
Our organization´s mission is to improve the quality of life of families of the ribera of Chapala in Jalisco, México, through providing health services for women as well as education for sexual and reproductive health. We were honored to receive 250 kits brought to us by our friend Rebecca Pohl, who traveled all the way from Canada along with her husband Allan with their truck to bring to us the DfG kits as well as other help for the marginalized communities in this area.
A dear Canadian friend we have in common, Darlene MacLeod, told them about CEDEJO and about the work we do with women and girls in the Lake Chapala area. They had the kits and they wwere planning to drive all the way here to give them out, so it was a perfect connection.
When we heard about the kits and the possibility that we could hand them to women who needed this kind of information and tools, we got really enthusiastic. We explored their website and thought about how we could best serve this amazing, worldwide project.
After considering all the possibilities, we determined that we would invite another organization to collaborate with us on this project. This organization, called Comunión de Corazón A.C http://www.comuniondecorazon.org/, appreciated from the beginning the possibility to take the kits to the Huichol women who live in a remote region of the Sierra Madre mountain range in the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Durango. The Huichol or Wixáritari are Native Mexicans that struggle to preserve their traditions and ancient peoples’ ways of living.
We planned the trip with anticipation; the Huichol leaders were informed and started to organize the women in the communities. Meanwhile, I (from the CEDEJO´s team) took the DfG Ambassador of Women's Health Certification to be prepared to take the kits and present proper and vast information to them.
Finally, on Friday, the 9th of October, 5 people (3 of us representing both organizations and 2 collaborators) took off to the Sierra Madre. It was a long trip and we arrived safely. On the next day, at 11 am, approximately 100 women showed up to La Laguna, the small locality where the gathering was held up. This was a success, considering that Huichol people don´t own cars and travel very long distances in the mountain to get to the different communities. The gathering looked beautiful: grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and babies. We sat down in a circle in the open. Because of their ways, men didn´t go away, but they stepped away to a prudent range and never interrupted. Women felt free to be and express themselves at all time.
It was an hour and a half session before we started handling the kits. It was very important to consider the bridging techniques suggested by Days for Girls as we didn't even share the same language. We had to use a translator; a very intelligent young woman who did the job amazingly well. We had to start with the basics and ask them how women regard their bodies and the women's cycles. At first they were shy and wouldn't talk too much. To help the conversation along, I started sharing my own testimony, as well as the stories of the women who have shared their experiences in the circles of women I've worked with. Then we started to hear about their own experience... they started to open themselves; laughing, commenting and all the time, being really appreciative and tuned in with what was happening.
When we got to the part when we opened one kit to go over its parts, their general response was full of surprise: oohs and aahs with a lot of smiles. With no trouble, they embraced the idea that the kit is washable and reusable, as most of what they use is. Also they recognized the importance to maintain hygienic conditions to prevent diseases, as they have no access at all to public health clinics and they are commonly affected by all kinds of infections and sickness. Unfortunately we couldn't address the part that shows how to build a tippy tap, but the group is committed to continue to work with them and go back in a couple of months to do this and reach for more Huichol women.
They were very organized and calm when we got to handing out the kits to them. It all went in a very pleasant and harmonious way. Smiles of gratitude on their faces; the grandmothers stood aside and were also very happy. It was absolutely beautiful. That day we gave out 180 kits, as some women continued to arrive throughout the presentation.
Also, we decided we didn't want to come back with the kits that remained (about 70) so a group of women was formed with Alicia, the women who helped with the translation, and will be responsible for taking care of the kits and handing them to women who come to them. This will be done only if they receive the information. But we suggested to motivate the women to attend the next reunion when we come back to share the information again.
Many beautiful things happened. A very young girl came to me with a big smile and held my hand for a moment. Alicia told me that this girl had asked her to thank us for giving her this information, since she had gotten her period and was confused about it. She wanted to share her new knowledge with her friends, too.
Many women wanted to know if we would continue to visit and talk with them about women´s health issues. They also asked if we could reach those who couldn’t attend then. We made a commitment to follow up and plan the next trip.
After we finished handing out the kits, we joined together and thanked everybody with a cheer and after that we started giving out some more things that Comunión de Corazón A.C brought to them. It was a great moment, because then the men, the grandmothers and the children got gifts, too. It turned into a community celebration.
The “Maracame” (the shamanic leader with spiritual and social authority) and his family prepared food for us, took us to eat, and to have a wonderful time with young musicians playing traditional Huichol music. They also offered us significant gifts which made us feel privileged and overjoyed. The celebration lasted all day.
On Sunday, we came back to Guadalajara feeling fulfilled and greatly inspired by this experience. Certainly, both organizations will continue to work together to bring Days for Girls sustainable solutions for women's health to others in need.
In the name of all of us and on behalf of all the Huichol women who now have a better way to live with their periods, thank you Days for Girls!
With all my appreciation,
Hana Figueroa of CEDEJO, A.C.