By John Farmer, KF 14, Mexico
Mexico decided back in 1924 that The Day of the Child would take place in April, long before the rest of the world decided to celebrate it in November. On April 30th I was in the state of Morelos, and went out into the streets to participate in the food and fun even though I long ago ceased being a child. A couple of women saw me without much food and insisted I get more. Such is the generosity in Mexico. The kids had all they wanted and more and there was still plenty for outsiders.
Mexico is a great place to be a kid in many respects. Children are absolutely adored in this culture where family is everything. They often live at home until well past childhood.
But youth here face all sorts of problems. Health is a major concern — the childhood death rate is nearly 7 times that of Western Europe. 15% of Mexican children under age 5 are stunted by malnutrition. Food insecurity effects over 40% of the country’s population according to some sources. Environmental concerns, such as pollution and smoke inhalation from cooking stoves, are also crippling factors.
Lots of young people, often very small children, work in the informal economy, doing things such as begging on the subway. Many are forced to work doing unthinkable things. A friend who worked in a women’s prison in northern Mexico told me that in many cases children live with their mothers inside the jail until age six, when the child has to leave. She often saw people on the prowl for recently released children with nowhere to go…
One of the saddest things is to envision the future of Mexico’s children if things continue to get worse. As more families slip below the poverty line, as the drug traffickers gain power, as climate change, soil degradation and the production of biofuels potentially mean less food for all, the situation is potentially very bleak.
Education is the only hope the youth of Mexico have. An educated populace can work miracles with few resources. The level of education a person attains is highly correlated with socioeconomic class, but one thing I’ve noticed here, is that when I ask borrowers what effect access to capital has had on their lives, they routinely mention their children being able to go to school.
So even though Kiva’s presence in Mexico is not glamorous, with two out of the three MFIs we work with being for-profit companies, and many of the loans going to borrowers selling catalog products or soft drinks, that stream of loans our lenders provide makes a huge difference in what matters most.
John Farmer is a Kiva Fellow at CrediComún in Mexico City. He might say he’s not a child anymore, but is quite childish. It’s too late to help him, but you can help others by making loans through Kiva.