El Camino: The Story of the Women, Poverty and Education in Mexico Project


Common Journeys was a project created for and by women of similar cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, including Mexican women from Tijuana, and Mexico, as well as Latina refugee and immigrant women living in East Vancouver.

10 years later, the above video was produced to highlight the impact of the project on the women by visiting them in Tijuana and seeing how this experience continues to impact their lives, their families, and their communities.

Common Journeys: Women Walking Together

The women came together to search for concrete practices that would enable them to confront and potentially overcome the persistent and difficult challenges they face on a daily basis (e.g. low income, loneliness, language barriers, and gender bias).  They trusted that through community involvement and a better understanding of their current situation, the women would find ways to improve living conditions for themselves, their families and their communities.

Common Journeys was based on the fundamental grassroots principle that through participation, teamwork, and dedication, both communities and individuals can be their own agents of social change. The Common Journeys project had four inter-related components designed to integrate the participants' shared experiences, knowledge, and skills into a community development model.

One of these components was an oral history project. Promotoras, or community promoters, from Tijuana were invited to share and celebrate their stories about themselves, their families and their communities. A second component consisted of the Latina women in Vancouver designing, implementing, and evaluating a community development pilot project that eventually took the form of a food-buying club and catering group. 

A central aspect to all the components was a series of exchanges during the course of the project between the women of Los Ninos and Mosaic. As the model developed, the women drew on the information gathered from the oral history project, the exchanges, and the knowledge of the project participants.

Common Journeys: Women Walking Together was one of the precursors to Women, Poverty, and Education in Mexico.

Women, Poverty, Education in Mexico (WPE) Project background:

Unmet basic needs and a lack of education have had a disproportionate effect on Latin American women, so much so that some have characterized recent developments in Latin America as the feminization of poverty. In this context, the WPE project proposed a multi-levelled community-based education program that facilitated the entry of women into higher education institutions. The initial focus was on women that work/volunteer in the community known as promotoras or community promoters.

The program worked primarily with the promotoras who played an integral role in the grassroots community development movement. There are still over 600 promotoras volunteering for NGOs in Tijuana alone. They live and work in communities whose members, like themselves, experience low literacy levels, poverty, gender discrimination, and racism. In the later stages of the project (third and fourth year), other women were integrated into the program. The promotoras' role as community leaders facilitated the recruitment process.

WPE Results

This project fostered positive social change for Mexican women in regard to gender equality, economic well-being and participation in civic life:

  • The development and delivery of a successful alternative community-based program for low income women in Tijuana
  • An enriched understanding of the relationship between poverty, women, and education
  • An awareness at SFU, as well as at the local and provincial level, about the issues around and strategies for improving the access to basic and higher education for low income Mexican women