Empowering Poor, Rural Girls in Paraguay

 
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Silvani and her sister Venancia
Silvani and her sister Venancia

During her time at Mbaracayú, recent graduate Silvani Gimenez’s love for orchids prompted her to develop, oversee, and care for the school’s beautiful display of orchid species found in the Mbaracayú forest. She led an expedition of classmates into the forest and discovered 5 new species of orchids to add to the 26 already documented ones. Her work will be published in the 2012 guide to orchids native to the Mbaracayú forest. Silvani and the other students involved in the study and care of the forest's orchids work closely with Fundación Bertoni in the area of research and conservation.

Silvani comes from a family of eight siblings. Her oldest 4 brothers never had an opportunity to study, while one of her younger sisters, Venancia Gimenez, is a student at Mbaracayu’s Girls School, following in Silvani’s footsteps. Silvani hopes to begin her university studies in February, 2012.

Orchids preserved in the school
Orchids preserved in the school's display
Silvani tends to the school
Silvani tends to the school's orchids
Raquel and Marisa, graduates from Ache community
Raquel and Marisa, graduates from Ache community

The Aché people are traditional hunter-gatherers indigenous to the Atlantic coastal forests of eastern Paraguay, primarily in the Mbaracayú region. The Aché population is approximately 1600 people. They have had an uphill battle against human rights violations, land rights violations, and extreme poverty.

The school is fortunate to serve several students from the Aché community, and for the students to share their culture with their peers.  Among our recent graduates, there are seven young Aché women, most are the first ever to finish high school in their families. All seven of them hope to go on to university. They are: Marisa Tykuarangui, Raquel Eiragui, Pablina Myvangi, Rufina Tatugi, Adriana Yapegui, Eulalia Piragui, Yolanda Yacuchangui. The last three are young mothers who made great sacrifices in order to offer their children a better life.

The two young women featured in this photo are Raquel Eiragi, whose brother graduated recently from an affiliated school with an emphasis on agriculture, and Marisa Tykuarangi, who is the first in her family to graduate high school. They worked together on a project that values Aché artisan works, and were chosen by their community to spearhead an Aché artisan cooperative. During their time at the school they have become recognized leaders in the community. Through their initiative, they and other young people in the community have learned from their elders how to create traditional artisan works. They play a crucial role in conserving and valuing Aché cultural traditions, all the while creating income opportunities for their community.

You have the opportunity to support other young women like them in their academic endeavors so that they can be better positioned to support themselves and their families and be empowered as advocates for the community and its traditions. Please consider a recurring monthly donation, or giving a donation to this project as a gift or in honor of someone. Thank you for your continued support!  

Here come the family to celebrate!
Here come the family to celebrate!

December 17, 2011 marked a historic day for the Mbaracayu Girls School.  49 girls celebrated becoming the first ever graduating class of the school. They all received a high school degree with an emphasis in environmental sciences. All of the girls had family members in attendance to share this proud moment.

This marks a huge achievement for the girls, their families, and the community. Many of the girls came to the institution timid, and with no self-esteem or motivation for the future. Now they all know their value and are not afraid of new challenges. Against all odds, the girls have no only completed a high school education, but they have also become self-confident young women with an entrepreneurial spirit and skills that will open never imagined opportunities for them. They have paved the way for other girls in the region to become professionals, study at university, and to be valued for their intellect. The girls have new expectations of what life has to offer, far beyond being relegated to extreme poverty, early child bearing, domestic violence as a norm, or involvement in the drug trade, prostitution, or human trafficking – all too often the only options available for many girls in the region.

A big thanks to all of you who made this dream a reality. Please continue to join us on this journey by continuing to share your generosity with the girls who continue to pursue their dreams at the school.

The proud graduates
The proud graduates
More proud graduates
More proud graduates
Elisa Centurion
Elisa Centurion

It is no small feat to be selected for an internship as a park ranger in Mbaracayú, a position traditionally held by a man.  Three girls from the Mbaracayú School underwent a rigorous selection process and were chosen for the post. Some of the prerequisites include: leadership and crisis management skills, survival skills, being from the region of the Mbaracayú biosphere, ability to drive a motorcycle, parental authorization, first response training, communication and customer services skills, willingness to be on duty for 25 days straight, and an overall ability to be responsible and hardworking.

The three students from the school who were selected, and completed this internship are Maria Cirila Olmedo, Elida Gómez and Elisa Centurión.  All three young women were successful in their endeavors, and exceeded the expectations of the parks rangers.  They spent 25 days straight at their respective posts, and Elida and Elisa further demonstrated their commitment by spending their birthdays away from family and friends.  While presenting the girls with their certificates for completing their internships, park officials and other park rangers all expressed their amazement at the jobs well done. These three young women paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps and not be held back because they are girls.

Upon graduating in December, Elisa Centurión will become the second female park ranger in the region , and will be employed by The Moisés Bertoni Foundation. She will continue to work in the Jejuimí region where the school is located. 

Elisa with a veteran park ranger
Elisa with a veteran park ranger

In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, The Mbaracayu School organized its second annual entrepreneurial forum consisting of games and activities to further cultivate skills in strategic development, communication, environmental conservation, merchandising, and sustainable projects. 150 students were able to benefit from the forum and develop new skills that advance their preparation for a lifetime of economic, social, and emotional wellbeing. The girls, their families, and the school staff have all worked hard to make this inspirational week a complete success.  

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Organization

Project Leader

Luis Sanabria

General Manager
Asuncion, Paraguay

Where is this project located?

Map of Empowering Poor, Rural Girls in Paraguay