The University Chiapas Project was organized in 2003 as an extension of the Oakwood Chiapas Project. Graduates from Oakwood School in colleges and universities work with three caracoles (regional centers) in Chiapas: Roberto Barrios, Morelia, and Oventic. Roberto Barrios has its own, large women’s cooperative; the others are gathering places for a number of women’s cooperatives and communities in their regions.
The main idea is to give these indigenous cooperatives a fair market in the U.S. for their crafts. This access grants these women the autonomy that empowers them to strive for change and justice within their country. College and university students who are dedicated to helping these women struggle for their dignity and livelihood offer the women’s products at campuses around the country, in exchange for donations to the cooperatives. All contributions go through the Mexico Solidarity Network. Start-up funding for the Project has been provided by two grants from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
The first goal of The University Chiapas Project is to support the women’s struggle by providing an alternative income that will help the women secure food, medicine, education, and other necessities. All of the money raised goes directly back to the women.
The second goal of the project is to educate on college campuses and in the larger community about the struggle in Chiapas. We hope to influence change in Chiapas by raising the level of awareness about indigenous issues, including access to healthcare, human rights, education, and self-governance.
The University Chiapas Project is grounded in the belief that while we may act as a catalyst of change, providing access to fair markets and education, real change must come from within. To this end, university students have been part of the delegations which have traveled to Chiapas — in order to talk with and work with the women’s cooperatives from Roberto Barrios, Morelia, and Oventic. They discuss together issues in how the University Chiapas Project operates.
The project is by no means restricted to graduates of Oakwood school. For information about who might be involved on a particular college campus, or if you would like to start a program at your college or university, please contact us.