October 25, 2019 – Maria Yolanda Hernandez Gomez was a member of WPDI’s first generation of youth peacemakers in Mexico’s Chiapas state. When first describing her motivation for joining us, she spoke about the constant violence and poverty that has stricken her country in recent decades; according to Mexican authorities, 33,341 murder investigations were opened in 2018 – an all-time record. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of students are also out of school, the youth unemployment rate is rising, and, in Chiapas, these factors are amplified; notably, the state has the lowest Human Development Index rate in the country. While Mexico is indeed an industrialized country, these inequalities are ones that many youths suffer from.
With this as a backdrop, Maria knew she could make a positive impact on her community. In her words, “Mexico is a country full of talented people who deserve peace … When I started my training, I began feeling like I was not alone anymore in this world, that there were other people thinking that we can make changes and who trained me to become a good leader.” Since she completed her training with us around five years ago, she has become an English teacher and founded an educational initiative that seeks to help children become better students. Additionally, Maria, in her spare time, facilitates municipal planning workshops that focus on the restoration of land rights for indigenous women, a community that she feels especially connected with. She is “committed to improving the lives of vulnerable people in Chiapas” and has made remarkable progress towards that goal in Chiapas state and beyond.