Connecting San Miguel to its surrounding rural communities
By Nina Weber
The Center for Adolescents of San Miguel de Allende (CASA, AC), a local nonprofit serving over 80,000 people a year throughout Guanajuato, would like to welcome a new peer health counselor to our sexual and reproductive health program. Maria Eugenia Copado is a San Miguel native who has grown up in the city. Before working at CASA, she was not familiar with life in the rural communities surrounding San Miguel, like many of us. A month into working at CASA, she has started to understand the complexity and beauty of our neighboring communities, and how education is key in the development of our local society.
There are around 439 rural communities surrounding the city where access to resources is more limited than in our dense, diverse and expanding San Miguel. Out of the total population of San Miguel, 11 percent of people over the age of 15 do not attend school, and 26 percent have not completed their schooling. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), the desertion rate in Guanajuato is at 17.3 percent for high school, which is four percent above the national average.
In rural communities there is lack of access to family planning and reproductive health care which translates into high rates of adolescent pregnancies, school desertion, and the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty. According to the INEGI, the percentage of adolescent mothers for the state has risen since 2004 to 17.6 percent. Out of the total births in the state, only 38.2 percent of the mothers have finished high school. Adolescent pregnancy and school desertion are two themes that Maria works with in rural schools. Here is what Maria has learned from her work in the communities so far.
“Before I started CASA, I didn’t know much about issues such as sexuality, drugs, and contraception. However, I learned very quickly from our daily training sessions and the peer counseling manual we are provided with. I am a Peer Health Counselor in PESSANE, which is the program that provides sexual and reproductive education to schools in Guanajuato. We replicate what we learn in workshops and group talks to youth and women in rural communities throughout the state.
Coming to CASA allowed me to face the differences between life in San Miguel and in surrounding rural communities. After visiting the rural schools, I can see that there are major differences between the education I received in the city and the schools that we work in. I have learned the value of transmitting all of the knowledge that we learn to the youth that do not have access to this information.
I am happy to be working at CASA because it has opened my eyes to the problems and realities that face Guanajuato and Mexico. However, it has also given me hope, knowing that I am working with a lot of people my age that are motivated and willing to work hard to change the lives of our fellow Mexicans.”
If you would like to sponsor Maria or the program, please contact Ana Marquez at email@example.com. You can also get to know our organization personally on our weekly tours, every Friday at 1pm, or set up a tour any other time with Nina Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org.