Women, Poverty and Education in Mexico

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia
Universidad Iberoamericana Noroeste, Mexico
Los NiƱos, Mexico

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
(CIDA/AUCC UPCD Tier 2, CIDA Partnerships Branch)

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, we proposed a multi-levelled community-based education program that facilitated the entry of women into higher education institutions. Our initial focus was on women that work/volunteer in the community known as promotoras or community promoters.

The design and methodology were developed around four strategies based on the realities of these women:

  • identify and address barriers that women experience in regard to education
  • develop course content that is relevant to the participants' personal lives and to their community work
  • utilize pedagogical approaches appropriate to the learnng styles of the participants
  • design a program that bridges the gap between basic and higher education

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.

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


Simon Fraser University and Tecsult International Limited received the Award for Gender Equality Achievement for the Women, Poverty and Education in Mexico project at the 15th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation on May 23, 2007. The Awards, which "recognize the excellent work of Canadian businesses and organizations in developing countries", are co-funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).