By Moonyeen King
Indigence: a level of poverty in which real hardship and deprivation are suffered, and comforts of life are wholly lacking. Webster. This describes the Tepehua Indigenous. Living in lean-to’s, where a family of five to seven live, sleep and love. One of the senses poverty cannot break is the ability and need to love, in spite of burdens thrust upon the woman. She still loves, begets and nurtures, and grows old quickly. Babies follow after reaching puberty: a reality. The closeness of the family group makes no shame out of sex. Lack of privacy educates the children at a very young age. Taboo of family planning is slowly being pushed aside. Computers, Television, other media, the availability of birth control, give some of the young a choice. Illiteracy blocks knowledge of all kinds.
Although the Church tries to stop the education of family planning, not just in Mexico, but around an over- populated world, availability is slowly achieving results. A woman can be in control of her body; it makes the machismo of the male powerless. Having this control empowers the woman; she needs to be educated about how to achieve that power and know there is a choice.
Preteens, not yet fully formed for procreation, are having deformed or mentally challenged babies. That is why so many grandmothers up the Tepehua hill are taking care of multiple grandchildren that their girl child drops off. Where are the fathers?
That same machismo is responsible for the spread of STD’s, (sexually transmitted diseases), a major killer for women of the barrios. Untreated STD is a known cause for cervical cancer. Women are still dying needlessly giving birth. In the barrios very few women have the availability of prenatal and postnatal care. Women go to the “free” hospital in Guadalajara by bus to have their babies and are sent home the same day. Due to lack of hygiene, they quickly get infections and lack of postnatal care causes her death. Although around the world, more babies survive, the mortality rate of the women is still far too high. The use of condoms is not just for family planning, it is to stop the spread of diseases. Societies are promiscuous, it is our nature, especially for the young.
Teaching birth control is not encouragement to be promiscuous; education is control and choice. Women in power push knowledge, but men in power hold back. Surprisingly, men of power here in Mexico are in favor of family planning and women’s choice; it is the Church that holds it back. That same Church states, “It is a man’s right to chastise his women.” The Church is an organization of celibate men. One could question their experience, knowledge and intention.
Education and family planning also tend to leave families better able to earn a living and more likely to accumulate savings. The result--they are better able to afford health care, which is allocated to maternal health. “Maternal deaths in developing countries are often the ultimate tragic outcome of the cumulative denial of women’s human rights,” notes the journal Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, “Women are not dying because of untreatable diseases. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”
Empowering barrio women, is like the Chinese proverb: “Educate a man, and you educate an individual. Educate a woman, and you educate a village.” This is by no means putting the barrio men down; the roles are different. The burden is different. Men in the barrio have a role...but the poverty on the hill cuts him off from that role. It is hard to find work. He is still begetting. His woman wants food on the table. He turns to drugs and alcohol in his frustration. The cycle of violence begins, and children learn to hide behind silence. If they do not make a sound, he will not notice them in his rage. But his woman takes the pain, and his pain, and she accepts it.
This can change.