Claudia Colimoro Sarellano

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1998
Casa de las Mercedes


This profile was prepared when Claudia Colimoro Sarellano was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Claudia, concerned about the rise in child prostitution in Mexico, and conscious that the principal victims are children of the streets, has created the Casa de las Mercedes, a home for young women with no place to turn. Most of the residents are pregnant or already have children (often as a result of rape). They have been deserted by their families or have never known a family, and must reconstruct their lives anew. Claudia offers the women shelter, food, proper hygiene, clothing, and medical, psychological, and moral support. She also gives the girls a practical education to allow them to return to the labor market and withstand the pressures which lead to addiction, exploitation, pornography and child prostitution. She achieves this through an improvement of the girls' own self-image, based on vocational training and knowledge of their own sexuality, and an education that tries to eradicate the repetition of generational violence and provide a new role for the mothers with respect to their own children.

In the face of a tremendous void in the provision of services to prostitutes and their families in Mexico, Claudia's project is not simply a paternalistic attempt to offer shelter and a few basic necessities to adolescent girls. Rather, she is trying to build a sense of self-reliance in the girls, constructed on new values and experiences. In the Casa de las Mercedes the young women are beginning the process of acquiring new values. This is visible in their physical appearance and conduct -- they maintain good hygiene and get along with their children and amongst themselves. The girls form bonds with the rest of the group as well as the institution, improving their self-image and encouraging them to overcome their tragic circumstances.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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