#GivingTuesday: How PSYDEH Supports The Women Of Rural Hidalgo (Near Mexico City)

Many are subject to gender-based or domestic violence, unable to access educational resources, and often live in poverty.

Despite legal advancements and improvements to prioritize Mexican women’s issues, many citizens still experience marginalization and discrimination, especially Indigenous women in rural areas like Hidalgo – a central state situated just north of Mexico City.

Hidalgo, Mexico.
Hidalgo, Mexico. FACEBOOK Psydeh AC

“Before we were able to integrate them as members of these cooperatives; some women that we have spoken to lived isolated, archetype housewife roles. You don’t have access to any financial decisions. You are the person who stays home to tend to the family,” said Hannah Swenson, PSYDEH’s Coordinator of Sustainability.


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Uniting these women with their community and other resources can be challenging. Organizations such as PSYDEH aims to foster a sense of agency and confidence through cooperatives and programs that enhance networking within the Indigenous community to strengthen personal and professional development.

“The organization was originally founded in the small state by four women who offered services that fell at the nexus of human development and human rights,” said Damon Taylor, PSYDEH’s Senior Advisor. For the following seven years, the organization focused on one-off initiatives to address women, youth, and anti-violence issues and ran successfully as a grassroots Mexican-run nonprofit.

Storytelling-Project. FACEBOOK Psydeh AC

After a successful period of securing funds and completing projects that served the needs of the people in the area, PSYDEH began to reflect on their practices. “We started to ask ourselves: ‘Are we moving the needle? Are we actually making any kind of sustainable impact?’” said Taylor. Through introspection and interviewing the attendees of their outreach program, the team realized a few changes needed to be made.

“We completely reoriented the way the organization operated, and began to build a replicable model to drive sustainable development from the ground up that is women-centric,” Taylor added. Around 2014, the organization implemented the changes it believed would achieve its goals. Since then, the group has been thriving.

The organization’s primary demographic is women of the Otomí-Tepehua-Nahua region of the remote Sierra Madre mountains, one of three Indigenous areas in the state of Hidalgo. “For us, the approach, at this point, is addressing inequality on three different fronts – social, economic, and gender,” said Swenson. This direction shift can be observed in the valuable programs launched in the past ten years.

Through workshops, Psydeh AC helps its members to capitalize on their knowledge in embroidery and agriculture, helping them to create solid self-sustaining organizations. FACEBOOK Psydeh AC

PSYDEH has hosted five public forums for Indigenous women leaders to discuss challenges and solutions amongst themselves as well as the local government. The most recent Fifth Regional Forum connected over 170 Otomí, Tepehua, and Nahua women from Hidalgo and Afro-Mexican female leaders from Veracruz to discuss ways to increase participation in civic processes. During the meeting, the “Fruits of Change” Seed Fund Initiative was created to offer hands-on support to four local women-led civil society organizations (CSOs) to produce project proposals for 3rd-party funders.

Additionally, from 2021 to 2022, the organization led a two-year social initiative, Bordamos Juntos, to assist female artisans with direct personal income through the sales of their handmade embroidered goods, leadership training, and support for their collectives’ reactivation and sustainable growth.

Currently, PSYDEH is collaborating with these communities through two of its flagship programs. One being The Sierra Madre Network. “The cooperative incubator,” Swenson explains, “is economic and social empowerment for cooperatives to be formed and legalized by the end of the third year. We’re already in that process.” There are different goals for each year with the first focused on personal and professional development issues, such as learning how to work together and network. In the second year, women learn how to run a business or a cooperative. Finally, the third year centers around leadership. The goal is that by the end of the third year, each woman would have a business that could be sustained through their own efforts with the support of the nonprofit.

Psydeh AC focuses on educating Indigenous Women Leaders to Defeat Poverty. Giving knowledge produces better long-term results than giving money. FACEBOOK Psydeh AC

The other flagship program, Tech for All, focuses on providing access to the technology and building infrastructure needed for the cooperatives and women in the region. “A lot of the time, power goes out. There’s no phone signal. Even the first year we were running the programs, before we were able to partner with a really strong ally of ours, Viasat, we were having them on calls, trying to FaceTime in the rain, standing out in front of a little bodega,” Hannah adds. “How do you mobilize people with these obstacles?”

Utilizing the donated solar kits from Viasat, PSYDEH can support the women, their community, and its own efforts, even with outside obstacles. Once the women are online, the program also supports digital literacy, which opens up so many opportunities to innovate using technology.

Even with all of the opportunities that access to technology and the Internet can provide, the team is still careful to respect the culture of these Indigenous populations when introducing these thighs to the women. “Bringing these different tools and skills and just exposure to technology with women partners means that they get to choose how they engage with that technology,” Hannah explains. 

All of these efforts lend to what Western women, particularly in Europe and the United States, would describe as “women’s empowerment.” The term, however, doesn’t neatly translate to the culture in which the organization operates.

“If we think about empowerment, it is complicated, it is loaded.” Taylor said.

“Frankly, the word isn’t used in Spanish, and there’s a reason for that. There is a hierarchical structure embedded into the Latin culture that manifests itself in multiple ways across the Hispanic world.”

Wherever we are, indigenous peoples are our neighbors. FACEBOOK Psydeh AC

PSYDEH’s perspective on empowerment is based on its process-oriented model, built on appreciative inquiry, neutral education, connection, and engagement. These ideas are formalized into a system that allows the women and the organization to collaborate with one another. “Then we get into repeating this cycle until there is a structure in place run by individuals who feel empowered through engagement around this process. Not because we give them power, because we are walking with them, so they realize and own their power in a way that eventually PSYDEH will work its way out of its own job in certain areas,” Taylor added.

“Each of us, whatever level of education we have, we have power. Innate power, power that we own, most often, power that we don’t even understand we have,” said Taylor.

Across 24 projects (valued at $3.4 million pesos) launched by and for women, PSYDEH has reached over 2,000 women through its workshops. Program participants have also submitted over 300 solicitations to federal, state, and local government officials inquiring about how public resources are utilized.

There is real power in the collective voice. FACEBOOK Psydeh AC

Though its achievements are impressive, the most rewarding results are the testimonies of the women who have completed these programs. “I have discovered that I can be joyful! That a woman not only has to be in the house and has to make tortillas and take care of her husband. I’ve discovered that a woman can also succeed,” said Marisol Martinez Cortes, a Sihuame Tekikame Cooperative Leader.

PSYDEH’s status as an apolitical organization allows it to remain flexible in deciding which issues to address, but this label also forces them to be vigilant in sourcing the funds to continue its work. The generosity of volunteers and donors is appreciated to keep the organization able to change the lives of so many women each year.

Jade Hargrove

Jade is a Georgia native who has enjoys trying new foods, podcasts, and long car rides with friends. She hopes to one day travel to every French-speaking country in the world to experience the different dialects and cultures that can be found around the world.

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