Over than 15 million people in Guatemala, more than half (51,3%) are women, who represent 50,6% of rural population. According to Central Bank of Guatemala, 53.71% population lives in poverty conditions, and of these, approximately 13.33 % in extreme poverty. Poverty is a synonym of social exclusion (precarious access to health and education services, and overall development possibilities), and in rural areas, a gender divide: In Guatemala, poverty has a woman’s face.
Riecken Community Library Network in Guatemala, through their development and Management Business Services, promote the economic and social equity, especially of rural women. How does it do that?
o Libraries promote women’s leadership to learn to organize themselves
o Libraries train to women in use of internet and access information
o Libraries promote social participation and community entrepreneurship of woman project.
All Riecken Community Libraries offer solutions to the community problems.
Based in data of National Statistical Institute, Young people of rural area access to a job before than urban area. In the Economically Active Population (PEA in Spanish), Rural male participation is double than Female (Male: 83.9, Female: 40.6). Almost half of rural homes depend of “Remesas” (migrants send money to their home); 80% of migrants are male son Females become heads of household but decisions depends of male because they provides to the Household Economy. This situation aggravates the relationship of dependency in the decision making process. Same statistical data of PEA, women is an unpaid family worker, so, they have not incomes or free time which they need to improve their studies.
Step by Step, Riecken Libraries in Guatemala are reducing women’s exclusion. We think when women in rural communities strengthen their leadership skills and abilities, and are provided participation and entrepreneurship opportunities at the community level, there will be an increase in positive community development and improvement of quality of life in the communities. When women learn to self-organize and work in a coordinated manner, they increase their community standing. Business projects that they generate will likely be more sustainable and have greater impact, both at the level of income-generation (business centers) and health (early stimulation and nutrition, etc.).
So, Riecken Libraries are promoting the participation and leadership of rural women via community development projects (e.g., business development, political and social initiatives) in rural communities. Our activities addresses the woman in a threefold dimension: as 1) individual, 2) as collective or organized social group, and 3) from their environment, strengthening the sense of belonging to a community. At the individual level, activities are visualized so that women can discover their inner abilities and strengths to help them confront their personal challenges through training in values, analysis, and self-reflection. As an organized social group, training will be oriented to strengthen their organizational and coordination skills, as well as teamwork, delving into values such as tolerance and respect. From the community dimension, the community library will be the institutional platform that accompanies the training process and supports women´s projects. Its purpose is to promote values, aspirations, and skills for women leaders to develop and implement social changes.
The Riecken Foundation, operating as the Riecken Community Libraries, is a nonprofit organization that manages a network of community libraries that promote social participation and proactive citizenship. Founded in 2000, Riecken’s community library model is entrenched in a philosophy that promotes access to essential knowledge, the development of critical thinking skills, and a commitment to lifelong learning and self-education. Each library is managed by volunteer community leaders. The mission of the Riecken Community Libraries is to promote democracy and prosperity in Central America by awakening a spirit of discovery and social participation.
 Tasa de participación: la Población Económicamente Activa (PEA) como proporción de la población en edad de trabajar (PET). (INE, ENEI 1-2013).
Riecken Community Libraries are proving that libraries are essential for a democratic society. The libraries are institutions where citizens are encouraged to make informed decisions and achieve their full potential. They deliver knowledge, promote critical thinking and stimulate self-education and lifelong learning. In poor communities, libraries also fulfill the role of providing a sustainable framework, with the library’s operations run by volunteers in the community. Through community leadership, important principles of development and self-government are formed.
Riecken Community Libraries distinguish themselves from similar development initiatives by the deep roots it plants in the communities where the libraries operate. Our libraries are vibrant centers supported by innovative programming, especially for children and youth. At the heart of this innovation are our librarians.
Riecken Libraries have talented librarians offering dynamic programming to engage young children, teens and adults. And you may see a common theme coming up in our newsletters – our libraries are not just about books and access to technology. They serve as community centers, a meeting ground for exciting programming, community leaders, families and more.
The community libraries also focus on the promotion of health through early childhood reading and nutrition education. This program involves pregnant women, parents and their children under six years old. In a fun and entertaining way, reading skills are combined with lessons on nutrition, such as cooking with fruits and vegetables, nutrition in general, and how to talk about nutrition with their young children.
Our library services are available to anyone who needs them. The community libraries promote a culture of transparency based on the transmission of values and strengthening of organizational skills. Youth also benefit from the libraries by gaining citizenship and leadership skills through local volunteerism.
According to the First Steps blog1, from Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents (father and mother) read aloud to their children from birth. According to this blog, “reading fairytales not only helps children to improve their vocabulary, but to recognize figures through the illustrations, to develop their comprehension skills, and to stimulate their interest in stories books. All this will affect their future lives, improving their analytical skills and theirs school performance”.
However, the educational and cultural reality of Latin America is characterized by a large number of people who declare that they cannot read or write; the most affected are in the northern triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras). Through various educational programs, Honduras and Guatemala have seen their illiteracy rates drop, but there are still many challenges to overcome. Riecken’s programs have been successfully addressing these challenges by involving civil society in the school and cultural education process, and promoting the spirit of discovery thought the joy of reading.
The Individuals, who possess the spirit of discovery, have the ability to try new things, start new projects and participate in the social life of their communities. Through reading, people can find solutions to problems and answers to their questions. Reading also encourages new ideas and creativity. Therefore, reading leads to discovery and the discovery leads to the prosperity. The reading program of Riecken Community libraries creates and strengthens the habit and joy of reading in the rural communities where the libraries exist. This program is designed to promote reading in children and adults by making reading fun and accessible. Librarians, volunteers, and parents are trained on how to read aloud and story time techniques. This training and the practice of reading aloud helps children develop a positive relationship with reading from an early age. For teenagers and adults, Book Clubs have been formed to promote reading as a social activity and a source of enjoyment and camaraderie.
Riecken’s libraries are also seen as “Bebetecas” (Libraries for babies)
The Riecken Foundation believes that reading to children from an early age (0-5 years), stimulates the mind, develops language, and builds a base to ensure the success of reading in the future. The parents are childrens’ first teachers; so they need to be provided with tools and activities they can do with their families to promote reading at an early age and develop a reading habit that will continue throughout life. Riecken’s programs are aimed develop language skills, vocabulary, pre-reading, as well as creating positive experiences with books. Parents also learn techniques and that they practice with their children. Essentially, the community libraries promote six pre-reading skills that mother, father and baby can develop from birth:
Motivation to Books: sparking the interest in children to enjoy books, with the purpose of promoting an approach to them.
Vocabulary: in the first week of life, the baby can vocalize at the same time that mother does.
Becoming familiar with the writing: engage the children with reading, use exercises that show drawings, shapes, people, and animals, not only with figures but with written words.
Knowledge of sounds: help children acquire the ability to hear and play with sounds.
Narrative skills: librarians can relate stories and tales to children and help develop the skills in reading readiness.
Letter knowledge: the children begin to learn their first letters.
The Riecken Community Libraries successfully promote literacy and the reading and writing practices in rural communities. It is the ideal complement to the effort made by the formal education sector. This integrated approach helps promote the practices of reading and writing in the life of the community. Building a literate ambience is an essential step before creating literate people. It’s also a way to help address the lack of reading skills and the environments that don’t promote literacy, which can sometimes be found in formal school settings. 2
 Openjuru, George. Adult literacy and its link to development In: DVV International, http://www.iiz-dvv.de/index.php?article_id=336&clang=3 (consultation: September 9, 2014)
Although and early childhood development reading program began in the libraries in 2007, in 2013 a child nutrition component was launched and offered as a preschool educational option to parents. The program was piloted in 15 community libraries:
Guatemala (Xolsacmaljá, Cabricán, Huitán, San Juan Chamelco, and La Libertad), and in Honduras (San Lucas, San Luis, El Porvenir, San Jerónimo, Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Copán Ruinas, Dulce Nombre, El Níspero, San Juan Planes, and Yorito).
This early childhood development program that links reading and nutrition is enabling communities to ward off health problems and malnutrition, strengthen the mother-child emotional bond, and guide, train and educate parents or children´s caretakers to ensure children's continuous and ongoing development.
Recently we had the benefit of a graduate student from the United States evaluating our existing early childhood development and nutrition program as part of her Master's thesis. Not only did she participate in sessions she also interviewed many of the mothers privately. The feedback was very positive. The only complaint was that sessions were not more frequent. In a perfect world we would, of course, like to offer such sessions on a daily basis.
All of the mothers reported positive changes in their children: they talked more, they asked more questions, interacted more with other children, showed interest in books and visiting the library. In addition, the mothers expressed their gratitude for the nutritional information and indicated that they were seeing that their children received adequate protein and vegetables.
My wish for all of our donors is that you could see the gratitude in the eyes of the mothers of these children. Many are not literate themselves and, like mothers everywhere, hope for more for their children. With your ongoing support we can continue to give these mothers hope that their children will succeed as students by getting them started as soon as possible. Gracias y saludos.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.