Centro Mujeres Helps The Most Vulnerable

It means Women’s Center, but they also attend to migrants and youth
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

Centro Mujeres is a community organization that promotes positive social change in Baja California Sur. That’s our state, Bunky. Centro Mujeres means Women’s’ Center in English. Their mission is to advocate for the human rights of the region’s most vulnerable populations, concentrating on  women, youth, and seasonal migrant workers. (Yes, we have migrant workers in Baja, they come from southern, more poor states, of Mexico to pick our crops in the agricultural area of Constitution. That’s that dusty, boring Fresno type town you zoomed through just north of La Paz on your way to the beach in Cabo. )

Centro Mujeres’ objective is to enhance women’s ability to control their own bodies and lives, and insure respect for all people’s human rights, and the development of a truly democratic society.

They work to achieve these goals by:

Policy: Making health and human rights part of the discussion at the local, national and international levels of government.

The Public: Raising awareness about social injustice and the need for gender equality. (You’re reading this, aren’t you? Then we’re doing our part to raise public awareness.)

The Community: Reaching out to women, youth and migrant workers to improve their quality of life

Centro Mujeres’ framework for change is influenced by the Vienna Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Cairo and Beijing Agreements, and within the framework of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Centro Mujeres remains one of the only organizations of its kind in our state and is regarded by the community as a trustworthy and effective advocate for the sexual, reproductive and basic human rights of women and adolescents.

The Women’s Center was founded in La Paz way back in 1991 by three health professionals. In its first two years Centro Mujeres focused on counseling in family planning, AIDS education and reproductive rights education. But, as the region has grown, the organization has expanded to meet the acute needs of the most vulnerable citizens of La Paz, diversifying their programs. Centro Mujeres continuously works with local policymakers to train and sensitize government workers to human rights abuses in the state.

 As a result of their continuous efforts and programs, the public school system no longer expels pregnant teens, the state congress changed the law to take domestic violence and sexual harassment seriously, and marginalized migrant workers are learning to defend their human rights.

Centro Mujeres asserts that reproductive rights are a human right.  From donations they provide subsidized health services for all women and adolescents in need in La Paz and the surrounding areas. Without Centro Mujeres most of the women and adolescents consulted would have nowhere else to turn to for emergency assistance, clinical care, and counseling services.

In addition to their work out in the community, Centro Mujeres receives more than 2,000 visitors annually. These people get medical consultation, psychological counseling, orientation and referrals, condoms, and emergency contraception. There is also a library of information available to them. The center is a safe place for abused and disempowered women, many of whom do not recognize they have a right to live free of emotional and physical violence.

An important outreach program is the area’s only peer-education programs It’s called Promesa, which is promise in Spanish.

Promesa is a community leadership program about women’s reproductive health and human rights, using women from the most marginalized communities as orientadoras. (Orienters). These women are trained to go back home to their communities as advocates, with particular attention given to prevention and  detection of HIV/AIDS and violence against women.

They believe violence prevention is a core part of creating long-term positive change in  Baja California Sur. Centro Mujeres works to create a violence-free culture with teachers and school counselors, parents and directly with young children.

The Women’s Center has two programs focused on the youth population:

Hablemos Claro (Plain Talk ) aims to increase parent-child communication so families can better address sensitive topics that can trigger high risk and negative social behaviors in young adolescents, such as alcohol and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school. The program targets families with children aged 10 to 13 years old attending primary and secondary schools.

In its first year, Hablemos Claro trained 31 teachers and school counselors in 32 elementary and junior high schools in the county of La Paz. During the second year the program focused on training elementary school based social workers.  Over 40 social workers have been trained, and they live in all parts of the state. These trained facilitators are implementing Hablemos Claro workshops throughout Baja California Sur, even the very vulnerable rural areas.  In addition to implementing workshops.

Little Ones is Centro Mujeres’ sexual abuse prevention project with children ages 4 to 6.  The program teaches essential skills to children and parents in order to help save them from dangerous situations. Little Ones supports teachers and parents to facilitate conversations with children around sensitive issues.

The entire program lives hand to mouth by donations and grants, and have earned tax deductible status from both countries. They claim a very low administrative costs, with 95% of their budget implementing their various projects. Their co founders, the administrative staff, and the board of directors hold an impressive array of advanced degrees in public health and administration.

To learn more and to get involved, go to Centro Mujeres’ website: www.centromujeres.org.