2013 began with the implementation of the newly revised and improved training guide for girls and adolescents. The Abriendo Oportunidades training guides and training of trainer strategy continue to be the only ones tailored specifically for rural Mayan girls. We are very proud of this new version! Mentors and leaders participated in selecting relevant themes and activities while deciding what topics should be addressed together. From them we confirmed that providing income generating opportunities is critical to reducing gender-based violence. Youth leaders have begun implementing the new curriculum.
Some Abriendo Oportunidades clubs have begun co-ed activities that aim at changing gender dynamics at the community level. With the support of Peace Corps, boys now meet to learn themes like self-esteem, communication skills, and rights. While girls will continue to be the principal focus of our program, our pilot work with boys will help us propose culturally-appropriate strategies to improve gender relations in rural areas.
This February and March Abriendo Oportunidades will participate in the staging of the Vagina Monologues. This will be the second year in which some monologues are done in Maya languages. The Monologues are an opportunity to raise some funds for unforeseen situations such as supporting girls in emergencies, or adding new girl leaders to our program. If you are in Guatemala in February or March, please check our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/#!/abriendoguate for dates and places.
Finally, we would like to thank everyone who donated during the Girl Effect Challenge! Funds raised will help us cover sports, gardening and training activities. Youth leaders will also be able to receive stipends to cover the cost of continuing their education.
This is a quick report to update you on the impact that today's earthquake had in our communities. The epicenter was close to the Western Highlands, where most of our communities are. We have managed to talk to several of the youth leaders who report damages to roads, landslides and at least one relative gravely injured. Mentors traveling to supervise girl clubs returned home but one who was already in the community she had scheduled to visit went ahead and ran a focus group :-) We love the spirit of our girl leaders and mentors!
This week's activities in Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán and Sololá are temporarily cancelled until we are sure everyone is fine and can move around safely. We will send another update once we have news from every youth leader.
Best and thank you for your concern!
2013 is getting closer and in the Abriendo Oportunidades office we are starting to plan for next years events and activities; this includes what areas that should be focus on and in which communities continued support is most needed. One of the upcoming activities for next year is to engage the girls in minor production opportunities. More specifically, this would support the girls interests in making products e.g. handicrafts, local food and pastries - to strengthen their beliefs in what they can achieve and for some girls to earn their first own money. These opportunities also teach girls about health, nutrition, and economic independence. In September we were out in Sololá, Quezaltenango and Totonicapan visiting different communities to see how they were organised, what productive activities the girls want to initiate, and where it can be done without affecting school enrollment.
During this small investigation we also visited Los Tuices, a community in which the girls already initiated a productive activity, namely production of bracelets. The activity has gone very well and the girls were so proud of their achievements. A video was made and it will be showed to other communities as a source of inspiration. Many of the girls expressed higher levels of self-belief from participating in the project and being able to earn their own money.
On the 1st of November the second annual ‘Girl Effect Challenge’ will start. We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to Abriendo Oportunidades last year and would love it if you could help us make this next challenge even better. It runs from 1st-30th of November, with the top 6 organisation with the most number of unique donations receiving a share of the Girl Effect fund. If we reach the top 6 the fund would allow us to continue our work with marginalised girls in Guatemala in 2013. Talk to your friends, tell them why you are contributing to Abriendo Oportunidades and ask them to do the same. Start by watching our new video (http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/providing-life-skills-for-rural-mayan-girls/). Also, LIKE us on facebook (www.facebook.com/AbriendoGuate) and help us to reach out to more people.
While much of the time Abriendo Oportunidades works with girl leaders and club participants, another important part of our program involves working with community members to make Guatemala safe for girls. This year five communities where the program is functioning the best were chosen to participate in a series of community mobilization and violence workshops we call “Safescaping.”
The Safescaping workshops are a unique opportunity to engage the entire community around the issue of gender-based violence, especially the safety of girls. Workshops are participatory and interactive, allowing participants to identify what they consider to be violence and how it exists in the context of their own community. We worked in groups of men, women and young people to answer a series of questions about violence including, “What forms of violence do you see in the community?” and “Who are the people who perpetuate violence?”
By listening to all of the different responses from men, women and young people, participants are able to understand the concerns and fears of the entire community. The workshops took place in five different towns covering five linguistic areas and wrapped up with community-led initiatives to end violence against women ranging from a movie showing and discussion to participatory video activities. Workshops like these provide the towns Abriendo Oportunidades works in with a special opportunity to organize themselves around girl issues and listen to what dangers exist in the community. The process has all been very exciting for us as well as we accompany the community through these activities and listen to all of the ideas from participants. In order for people to care about violence against women, it first needs to be visible and that is just what “Safescaping” does!
So far 2012 has been a busy year for Abriendo Oportunidades girl leaders, full of workshops on sexual-reproductive health, prevention of gender-based violence, resume writing, and even rugby! We have been working with amazing volunteers from Peace Corps and the Guatemala Rugby Club to provide girls with high quality learning opportunities.
Last month, the girl club leaders started to learn how to play rugby with the help of coaches and players from the Guatemala Rugby Club. They are learning to play tag rugby and each girl leader has one ball and tag belts to start playing the game in their community. Since rugby is not often played in Guatemala, especially in rural areas, this provides the girls with the opportunity to “own” the game and use it as a tool to empower girl club members. Creating safe spaces for girls to play, learn and grow is an important aspect of the program and rugby is more than just a sport for them. It is a way for the girls to learn to work together, grow as a team and play a sport that nobody, not evenmen, in their communities are playing. The rugby revolution is Guatemala has not only already begun, but its leaders are young rural Mayan girls!
So this Mother’s Day, we are asking for you to help us continue AO club activities and expand our growing rugby project. We are hoping to work with a volunteer to visit the communities and organize training activities with the girls clubs directly to help them continue to learn more about the sport, and then ultimately have a rugby tournament in December! Donations will also help us buy more balls, make more tags belts and cover the costs of adding an extra day to our workshops to train and play rugby. The Guatemala Rugby Club is committed to providing high quality, safe, and fun activities to bring this sport to our 45 communities. By creating safe spaces to learn, grow and develop into empowered, educated young women, Abriendo Oportunidades will continue to form girls who decide when THEY want to become mothers and then pass on these same values to their daughters! Happy Mother’s Day to mothers across the world, from rural Guatemala!
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Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala,