Profiling Tepehua

By Moonyeen King

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poor-womanThere have been many editorials regarding the “War against Women” raging around the world, an outcry for equality and liberation. There is also the surge of educating Third World women about self help. That does not get as much attention as the other does.

Micro financing for women and the development of co-operatives aim at the independence of women. Micro financing and co-operatives’ goals and principles are the same. ‘Co-operative Enterprise’, written by MacDonald, Wallace and MacPherson, explains in layman’s terms exactly what it means. Simply put, it means pooling resources, group ownership, borrowing without interest.

Dr. Mohammad Yunus started micro financing for women in India in the 1970’s. He had noted that when the women borrowed from banks with interest, it dug them into a cycle of debt they couldn’t get out of.  Pooling resources helped the women to meet their common economic goals and social needs. Dr. Yunus also started the Gameen Bank for Micro Financing in Bangladesh that enticed women to borrow without interest, because they paid back their loan in full, whereas men didn’t. 

Interestingly enough, the first co-operative was the Pawn Shop, started in the 1500’s by Franciscan Monks. Then came credit unions in the 1800’s in England and Germany, followed in the 1900’s by America and Canada. According to “Co-op News and Community Action”, human co-operation dates back prior to written history; it is natural. The survival of humans is directly linked to working together for the common welfare. With no concept of privately owned land or tools or resources, it all works for the common good.

In Mexico, the reform act of 1915 created a co-operative in shared land called Ejido. The state retained title to the land but granted the villagers (Ejidatorios) the right to farm. They could not sell the land nor mortgage it, only pass it to their heirs. And, if the land was not worked, another could apply for it.

In 1992 that changed. Ejidatorios can choose to rent out their properties or mortgage them, and do not need to maintain their property to retain it. They can lose it by default...if they miss payments for a long period of time—a little like repossessing, the decision of which belongs to the Local Government Council and the Council for Ejidatorios. 

The Tepehua Community Center plans to build a Co-operative in Tepehua, providing micro-financing for the women to pool their interests and set up micro-management in Tepehua. The Mayor of Chapala, Joaquin Huerta Barrios, has ‘gifted’ some land to the Tepehua Centro Comunitario A.C., to help the empowerment of the women in the Barrio. Empowering women will strengthen the ‘middle class’, without which you have a floundering economy and an unbalanced society.

Tepehua is situated just outside of the bustling tourist town of Chapala, and sooner rather than later, tourism will spill over to Chapala’s outskirts. The giant church with the figure of Jesus holding out welcoming arms to the people overshadows Tepehua. The municipality has already invested money around the church, which is the highest pinnacle in Chapala with a breathtaking view of the mountains, lake and the town—a tourist haven.

It will happen.  The time has come for investing in women in the work place.

Emmilenne de Leon states “Mexico is a country with many resources, but it still has a huge gap in the distribution of wealth. Fifty two percent of the population lives under the poverty line, and 70 per cent are women”.

Poverty has a woman’s face and investing in women is not an option but a necessity for the health of the family unit.


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