Fellow Since 1996
Investigación y Educación Popular Autogestiva
This profile was prepared when Guillermo Alonso was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Guillermo Alonso is creating a constituency for children in Mexico's Yucatán peninsula. The peninsula is home to the largest concentration of Mexico's indigenous Maya Indians and mestizo peasants and the poorest region in the country. By focusing on Maya children, the country's single most neglected group of youngsters, Guillermo draws public attention to the human rights of all its children. In so doing, he is leveraging Mexico's obligations as a signatory to the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child to press for improved governmental policies to address children's needs. This goal will require new laws and an exhaustive revision of programs. Guillermo has linked together a broad range of citizen organizations to lobby for the necessary changes and, in the process, to develop more effective means of working together in a climate of poor government support. Perhaps the most radical aspect of Guillermo's work is how he incorporates the children themselves into the process of improving their lives. He believes that children should have full participation and voting rights in decisions that affect them, and he has developed a process that includes them in local government bodies and citizens' organizations. What makes this technique particularly promising is that he is demonstrating that it is practical and effective in improving wider community development among the Maya and thus offering a model for adoption in other communities.