Women Work Together

Mission Statement Women Work Together supports women and girls in highland Guatemala in their efforts toward gender equality, focusing on girls' access to education. Our mission is to raise the socio-economic status of Guatemalan women and girls by cultivating and strengthening their ability to work effectively in groups and aspire to leadership, thus accelerating positive changes in their lives and in their communities. We believe that the cycle of poverty and powerlessness endemic to rural Mayan women can be broken through systemic grassroots change that values and invests in girls' education and leadership. To accomplish this, we have taken an uncommon path in Latin America, partnering ...
Feb 10, 2014

Mi Hermanita to Reach 600+ Girls in 2014

Getting Ready for a New School Year
Getting Ready for a New School Year

Mi Hermanita – My Little Sister - Expands as 2014 School Year Begins

Program Evaluation Launched to Measure Outcomes and Impact

Children across Guatemala are returning to school this month, embarking on a school year that runs from mid-January to the end of October. In San Pedro Sacatepéquez girls starting their last year of junior high/middle school (called básico, roughly equivalent to 7th, 8th & 9th grades) are especially excited. Why? Because this year all 300 9th graders in the 13 rural básicos across San Pedro can become a Big Sister and mentor a Little Sister in 2nd or 3rd grade, helping her with schoolwork, motivating her to try her best, and inspiring her to stay in school.

Having piloted Mi Hermanita in five schools during 2013, the Guatemalan staff is poised to expand the program to all of these schools. With this expansion, Mi Hermanita will engage directly with some 600 girls, i.e., Big and Little Sisters combined, along with each of their 600 mothers and many teachers.

According to Marianna, one of last year’s Big Sisters, (pictured below in the middle of two others, each preparing for her next meeting with her Little Sister), “Being a Big Sister to Alicia taught me a lot about myself. Because of her admiration and affection for me, I’m inspired to work even harder in school and be a good example for her. I’m so excited that Alicia is doing better in school, too, and she hardly ever misses a single day anymore! I really look forward to our get-togethers every week and so does she.”

The first workshop of this school year for cooperating teachers and school principals took place just last week. The program veterans among them eagerly shared with their colleagues the positive changes they’ve seen in school attendance, academic performance and self-confidence among both the older and younger girls who were in the pilot program. Working with what we’ve all learned from that experience, this year promises to be even more successful.

Adding to this prospect, during 2014 our participatory programs that support the Big Sisters will be offered on regular basis during their school day. This is a direct result of the program’s recognition and certification by Guatemala’s National Ministry of Education, along with only 12 other organizations nationally. This accreditation also places us in a select network of organizations that itself is a rich resource for sharing best practices and benefitting from one another’s experience promoting girls’ education as the most promising path out of poverty for communities across Guatemala.

Assessment and evaluation efforts looking at program effectiveness and impact will also be stepped up in this school year. Thanks to the professional leadership of WWT’s newest Board member, RoseMarie Perez Foster, Senior Research Specialist at the University of Colorado, Guatemalan staff has agreed on an evaluation design, collaborated in developing the required instruments, and has been trained in interviewing techniques, data collection, entry and compilation, etc. Beginning in mid-February, they will collect baseline data for all program participants and for a set of control schools. This will be compared to data collected in the fall at the end of the school year to assess changes, if any, in measures of school commitment and success, literacy achievement, self esteem, self efficacy, and the like.

As always, it takes more to do more. Your continued and increased financial support is key to this expansion and evaluation. This program is highly valued in all of these communities, motivating and inspiring them to send girls to school. Many thanks…your donations actually do change lives!

Marianna & Friends Preparing for Little Sisters
Marianna & Friends Preparing for Little Sisters
Teacher Workshop
Teacher Workshop

Links:

Dec 12, 2013

PROGRAM WINS NATIONAL RECOGNITION

PROGRAM WINS NATIONAL RECOGNITION

Guatemalan Ministry of Education Makes It Official   

ADIMTU, Women Work Together’s sister organization in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, has been awarded national accreditation from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education for the comprehensive Leadership Institute. They are one of only twelve organizations certified to deliver educational programming in the schools during the school day.  This followed a year-long program review that included field visits, written applications and in-depth workshops.

The program’s certification carries significant weight and prestige and will be an important asset in our efforts to attract more sustainable and in-country funding. It also places ADIMTU staff in the company of other similarly innovative organizations, to learn from them, build local capacity and bring more direct benefit to all parties.

Collaborations Count

Girls' premature romances and ensuing pregnancies are frequently cited as a reason why girls leave school. Fathers in particular have been very forthright in asking for ADIMTU's help in addressing this problem. While eager to respond, the staff is not trained in this very specialized field. Through the Education Ministry's accreditation process, ADIMTU connected with the Fundación Juan Bautista Guitiérrez, a long-established and highly-regarded Guatemalan foundation dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable communities, including programs for teens on reproductive health.  FJBG agreed to partner with ADIMTU and spent most of November working with students in 10 of ADIMTU's middle school sites during the school vacation.

Girls Leadership Institute Reorganizes to Maximize Impact

All of our programs for girls and their mothers, fathers, teachers, and community leaders are now under the umbrella of a newly configured Leadership Institute. This brings together our girl-centered, 10-month in-school programs with the workshops, community conversations and trainings for adults. ADIMTU will work in each rural community more frequently, carrying the message that Educated Girls Can Change the Future. Look for an expanded description of the Leadership Institute on our updated website, www.womenworktogether.org. 

Will You Stick With Us?

We believe we're establishing a sufficient track record to qualify for larger scale grants. During 2014 and 2015 we will be working to secure more sustainable funding for ADIMTU, perhaps as a demonstration site for other Guatemalan communities and schools. 

However, this will take time, during which we will still need to raise $120,000 annually to support the ongoing work which will impact over 800+ girls and their families in San Pedro. 

This breaks down to just $150 per-girl-per-year, and barely $75 per person once you factor in affected mothers, fathers, teachers, and community leaders.  

And so we ask you to please stick with us and continue or even increase your support so we and all these wonderful girls don't lose all our hard-won gains.

Your investments so far have already paid off. These young teen girls have a greater sense of themselves than ever before. They love to read. They look you in the eye. They express their own ideas with confidence. And they speak up in public as never before. The girls are seeing themselves as important people...contributors to their families, active members of their communities, and valued participants in society.

Moms w/books written about them by their daughters
Moms w/books written about them by their daughters
Nov 11, 2013

Teen Girls Are Agents of Change

Mi Hermanita is the culminating project for middle school girls in San Pedro Sacatepéquez.  By the time they become Big Sisters, the girls and their families have already participated in earlier projects about the importance and benefits of staying in school. They’ve learned about their mothers’ and grandmothers’ lives as compared to their own, and have taken responsibility for reading to their families at home.

Mi Hermanita challenges the teen girls to become agents of change, not just for themselves and their families, but now out in their communities. Through this service learning project, our girls actively use the knowledge they have gained in school in order to become a mentor and tutor, helping a second or third grade girl who is struggling with her studies. 

On our recent trip to San Pedro in October, we again saw first-hand the growing impact this project is having in the rural communities where it is in full swing. Increasingly, the Big Sisters are taking ownership of their experience, renaming the project Mi Hermanita (My Little Sister) rather than Las Hermanitas (The Little Sisters) to reflect the personal empowerment that speaks directly to their individual experience. Now why hadn’t we thought of that?...Of course!

Mi Hermanita is fairly complex to run since it requires organization among our middle school girls and their teachers plus coordination with teachers and Little Sisters in the primary schools, along with parents of both sets of girls, so that the Big Sisters can visit their Little Sisters in their homes once a week.

While positive and encouraging overall, Mi Hermanita has its individual challenges. Hearing directly from the girls, we learned about some of their more difficult experiences, such as having to walk alone past fierce dogs or, in one case, feeling uncomfortable in a house where the father was drunk and angry. (This girl was quickly reassigned to a different Little Sister.) Some talked about how frustrated they felt at the start of the year, when their Little Sisters didn’t mind them or were not very motivated to learn because they were already behind in their schoolwork. At the same time, these same Big Sisters burst with pride, eager to explain that now, at the end of the school year, their Little Sisters had caught up to their peers, were excited for their Big Sisters to arrive each week, and eager to read, write, and practice math with them. 

In one of the villages we visited 36 girls had adopted Little Sisters from five primary schools in surrounding communities who had been identified by their teachers as likely drop outs. Typically these younger girls have no one at home to help them with homework, as most mothers barely went to school themselves. And so the little girls struggle when they begin to confront academic subjects.   

We met with this group of Big & Little Sisters and many of their mothers and grandmothers in the community hall, a cold dark building that came alive with their presence. There, on the stage, were a cluster of long legged girls in jeans, (their school day would begin in the afternoon so they were not yet in uniform) busily assembling the sound system for the program. There was not a teacher in sight. Soon clusters of little girls in school uniforms arrived with their teachers, then more and more until we had about 50 hermanitas in the room, and the program for the day was announced - again by the older girls. They spoke with great poise (using a microphone) about the program, sharing what they had learned and how important it had been for them and for their Little Sisters. Then Little Sisters spoke along with some of their mothers and grandmothers, all of it orchestrated by the older girls. It was truly impressive to witness the command, presence and poise these girls had on stage, when just 2 years ago they would have been giggling and looking at their feet in even a one-on-one conversation. Then 2 older girls were invited on to the stage with their 6 little sisters, who launched into a 10 minute choreographed dance performance Gangham style, complete with synchronized moves of hands and feet, shy smiles and a few giggles - but they carried through to the end. They were terrific, and received thundering applause. The older girls later told us that they each work with 3 little ones, and then they switch off, because they found it easier to overcome the small girls’ shyness if they all worked together - problem solving in action.

We later spoke with the Director of the middle school who is also a primary school teacher in the morning. He was very positive in his assessment of the project, describing the many benefits to both the older and younger girls. He said overall it was the most successful project that had come into the school to date, and was hopeful we would be able to continue with another group in the 2014 school year. He said it was the only tutoring program in the state, and urged that it be widely replicated. (We heartily agree!) 

Throughout the 2013 school year, which in Guatemala runs from January – October, the staff of our local sister nonprofit, ADIMTU, has worked with the Big Sisters to develop participatory activities to use with their young charges. At their suggestion (and with support from donors) we equipped each Big Sister with a satchel of books, art materials and games to foster curiosity and a love of learning. This year we were able to provide additional book titles which included such classics (in Spanish) as: The Hungry Caterpillar, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, and Clifford the Big Red Dog Goes to School. All of the books, screened in advance by the ADIMTU team, proved incredibly popular and sought after by both Big and Little Sisters, and gave a big boost to the girls’ weekly sessions together.

With the addition of Dr. Theresa Preston Werner as Director of Evaluation to the WWT team, we’ve been able to implement a more comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of our work. Particular to this effort is to measure the girls’ own perceptions of the changes they have been able to make through their year-long work with their Little Sisters. At the end of this recent 2013 school year which runs from January thru October, the girls rated their Little Sisters as 5.73 out of 10 on average for academic abilities at the start of the year and 9.46 at the end, with an average increase of 4.08, thus demonstrating the value they themselves place on their time and contribution. In addition, teachers and parents of both the younger and older girls appreciate the responsibility demonstrated by the older girls along with the increased levels of academic achievement by the young ones.

This year we were also able to recognize the teachers who supported Mi Hermanita, gifting each of them a briefcase of school supplies that included such basics as pencils, pens, markers, staplers, rulers, pencil sharpeners, as well as a collection of 10 books for them to read for their own pleasure and interest. These were very well received and much appreciated, as normally teachers must supply themselves with everything they need.

Looking ahead, beginning in January 2014, Mi Hermanita will be folded into our newly restructured Leadership Institute, and will engage all Grade 9 girls in all of the 13 rural  middle schools in San Pedro.  This will be a capstone project for the oldest girls in middle school, and will build on our work with the grade 7 and grade 8 girls who will be involved in La Vida de Mi Mamá (My Mother’s Life) and La Lectura Familiar (Family Reading Time) respectively.  All 3 projects have been in pilot phase with some girls over the last 2 years, and now, after testing, evaluation and restructuring as needed, are ready to be expanded to all rural middle school girls across San Pedro.

Simply put, it takes more to do more. Your continued and increased financial support is key to this expansion and highly valued in all of these communities, motivating and inspiring them to send girls to school.

 

 

 

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