February 24, 2021
Keepers of the Earth Grant Partner Spotlight: Center for Indigenous Rights (CEDIAC), Mexico
By Stefany Gomez
In the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, the conditions of health services are very precarious. The municipalities of Chilón and Siala are home to more than 600 Indigenous communities and more than 13,844 people. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, in both municipalities, there was a shortage of medical staff and equipment. With the arrival of COVID-19, the situation has become even worse. In hospitals, there are no more places for patients as there are only 180 beds available for a population of more than 100,000. The lack of access to basic services such as water, and the little general knowledge about the symptoms and forms of transmission of the virus, have put the population at risk.
To address these problems, the Center for Indigenous Rights (CEDIAC) launched a project based on the participation and decision making of the communities of Chilón and Siala. With an emergency grant from Cultural Survival’s Keepers of the Earth Fund, CEDIAC trained community members as health promoters to protect their communities from the spread of the virus. They held workshops where volunteer doctors trained a total of 88 people to be health promoters for their communities. The youth also took action. Ten young people created videos and radio programs sharing factual information about COVID-19 to fight fake news. The material produced was later broadcasted on the local community radio station and posted on Youtube and Facebook. Likewise, the health promoters visited communities to inform them about the preventive care and to debunk the myths surrounding COVID-19. A total of 881 people from various communities attended the talks by the health promoters. Eighteen young people from the community also planted a community garden of medicinal plants.
Jenifer, one of the workshop participants who became a health promoter, from the community of Chilón, said: “The workshops helped me a lot. They gave me the opportunity to receive training to help the people from my community." She added that she would like to participate in more workshops to learn more about health in order to improve her work. Another project participant, Pascuala Vázquez Aguilar, a member of the Community Group Council of Chilón, pointed out the importance of implementing these types of activities, “[the workshops] motivate us to continue to train more young people in health matters. It is important to build our own shields and to prepare and train ourselves.”
CEDIAC's efforts benefitted hundreds of Tseltal, Tzotzil, Ch’ol people in the state of Chiapas. All the work undertaken had the objective of strengthening the community health and building resilience of community members based on Indigenous values and solutions.
Keepers of the Earth Fund (KOEF) is an Indigenous Led Fund designed to support Indigenous Peoples’ community development and advocacy projects. Since 2017, through small grants and technical assistance, KOEF has supported 119 projects in 31 countries totaling $488,475.