Manuel González Mújica

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 1989


This profile was prepared when Manuel González Mújica was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
After working creatively with children in trouble through the 1980s, Manuel has increasingly turned to helping Mexico as a whole come to grips with the alarming growth in the number of children denied acceptable childhoods.He started several years ago among those working for children in Mexico City. His first solidarity meeting for children, at which 20 organizations came together, was held in 1987. In 1988, 38 groups signed up. He is now quickly moving to create a National Children's Movement. At its first national meeting in February 1989, 124 non-government groups from all over Mexico as well as from several of its Latin neighbors attended. As the head of the Movement's organizing commission, Manuel is now taking the lead in stimulating the development of children's organizations in the seven major regions outside Mexico City.Increasing the number of people working on the problem is important, but Manuel has a far more ambitious agenda. First, he's setting out to define, build support for, and ensure children a series of basic rights. This involves building consensus within the Movement, imaginative use of the press, suggesting legislation, and building the capacity of grassroots organizations to provide needed support. His concerns are very concrete. For example, since many children, especially street children, must work, he wants to enforce contracts and claim a number of other safeguards guaranteed old workers. (Earlier he had set up the prototype of an employment agency for children, and had attempted to protect them against unjust employers on a number of occasions.)Second, he wants to strengthen those working for children, both individuals and organizations. The Movement, designed as a flat mutual help network, will help by encouraging the participants to reflect, evaluate, and share. The Movement will try to help member groups learn both these reflective skills and how to train their own staffs.Even before devoting himself to building the Movement, Manuel had begun to create a new paraprofession for workers from grassroots organizations working with children, specifically including some of the street children themselves. He persuaded the Open University to allow him to build a certificate program for these "Promotores de Ninos Callejeros." He designed the curriculum both to mesh with their day-to-day work and to allow them to proceed at their own, differing paces. Through the program he has set out to create "geo-cultural" people not limited by the usual university and professional specialized parochialisms. He hopes to extend this opportunity to other parts of Mexico as he builds up the Movement there.Finally, he hopes that as the Children's Movement matures, and as its members experiment and reflect over the next five years, it will gradually develop an overall strategy for the country. If it also works skillfully at building public understanding over these five years, Mexico just might then get at the roots of this broad and deeply troubling failure.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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