Between Two Worlds: Identity and Community in Oaxaca
Access to educational opportunities is the driving force in promoting gender equality and alleviating the effects of poverty among rural populations in Mexico. In Oaxaca, small universities with scholarship programs have recently opened in rural areas to increase logistical and financial access for young people from indigenous communities; however, proper consideration has not been given to cultural constraints and psychological factors that continue inhibiting university access, particularly for young women. Due to traditional, conservative family values with regard to gender expectations that maintain women in subordinate positions to men, women face additional challenges when attempting to balance home community life while pursuing higher education. Qualitative research methods including ethnographic observations, individual interviews and focus groups were used among young, indigenous women attending university, their family members, and university staff to examine the social systems in which women study and live. Through the use of the snowball technique and key informants in the university, participants were recruited in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner. This research shows the impact diverging from traditional gender norms has on young women’s self perception and familial relationships, and provides a better understanding of the impact socio-cultural factors exert on first-generation university women.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jack Corbett