With a long history of leadership in educating lakeside inhabitants on matters of human development and family health, the non-profit Centro de Desarrollo de Jocotepec (CEDEJO) is at the vanguard in introducing a practical and inexpensive feminine hygiene product to local women and guiding young people to take the reins of their adult lives.
The Lake Chapala Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has taken on sponsorship of an initiative to make the innovative silicone menstrual cup available to low-income women of reproductive age. The organization has imported a large supply of the reusable devices for donation to CEDEJO. The eco-friendly cups made of flexible, non-allergic material can be employed over and over for up to ten years in place of disposable sanitary pads or tampons.
CEDEJO is introducing the cups through a community outreach program operated so far at private homes in the barrios of Jocotepec and the DIF (Family Development Agency) facility in Ajijic. Interested women receive the product at orientation classes on the use and benefits of the devices, complemented by basic instruction on female anatomy.
Although the cups have a commercial value of around $US40 each, the Unitarian gift allows CEDEJO to distribute them in exchange for a minimum 50-peso donation toward operation of the center’s education and reproductive health care programs.
One example is the extracurricular course on personal empowerment that CEDEJO is running for teenage students enrolled in the Mezcala branch of the Preparatoria de Chapala. Young people in this town populated by struggling subsistence fishermen and farmers generally enter high school with below average academic skills and limited future prospects, notes program coordinator Margrita van der Hoek.
She explains the that the central purpose of the eight-session workshop series is to provide students with the intellectual tools to apply critical thinking in making grown-up decisions to lead healthy, happy lives.
Exercises presented in an ambiance of open discussion delve into topics such as objectives for work or study to be pursued after graduation and practices for health and non-violence in courtship with romantic partners. The program’s sex education component covers contraceptive methods to avoid unwanted pregnancies, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and related gender issues.
An offshoot of the workshops is a budding pilot project specifically geared to mentor girls and adolescent women, operated under the guidance of specialists brought in from Guadalajara.
CEDEJO is sustained by contributions from various local philanthropic groups including the Mexican National Chili Cookoff, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church and the Lake Chapala Charities Grant Program, as well as numerous individual supporters.