This was a difficult month for Guatemala. The eruption of Volcán de Fuego in the Escuintla department has left many without a house and many more searching for their families. We are relief to inform that the Abriendo mentors, the Population Council staff, and their families are safe.
Nevertheless, we are pleased to report back on our activities for the last weeks and to update you in the mentors' process of becoming autonomous. Firstly, we would like to thank the Population Council's NY and Mexico team for their visit to Guatemala. The mentors and ourselves were very happy that Thoai, Isabel, Kelly and Daniella got to know about the work of the mentors' networks in different parts of the country and to link together the ideas for the Council's future regarding research. We are certain that our efforts to assist the scaling up of girls and women programs are being supported by our team all around the world.
We are also very happy to tell you about Eli's participation at the Program for Women's Leadership "Mujeres Líderes: Motores del cambio económico y social", an event organized by the State Department of the United States on march 2018. Eli was able to attend as a mentor for Abriendo Oportunidades and met with other women leaders from Latin America. You can read all about her traveling experience bellow. This kind of activities could not be possible without the support of our donors and friends at Global Giving. You are a part of this proyect and we thank you for continuing to believe in us!
Silvia Tum, director of Abriendo Oportunidades, has just visited the networks of mentors working in Alta Verapaz and Sololá, and came back with great plans for what is to come. Although Silvia had already worked with the mentors, this was the official presentation of the new program director to the young women working with AO. The mentors even got to take Silvia for a hike -see the photos below- to explore possible spaces to continue the project.
In this visit, Silvia, the mentors and the Council staff joined a brainstorm meeting to explore new collaborations and ways of working in the future, as the networks continue their journey towards independence and autonomy. Our dream is to see them succeed in their mission to help and transform the reality of rural indigenous girls in their home towns -and Mesoamérica-. We know they have all and more of the abilities and assets to follow on that task. As they prepared for the transitions, plans are being made for assuring the program’s sustainability and we will keep you updated in this process.
We are very grateful for your donations while we continue this project. Our Mother’s Day Campaign was a big hit, and we could not have made it without you and your support. Thank you for continuing to believe in the mentors' conviction.
It has been a dream of ours to build strong networks of mentors that can make Abriendo Oportunidades a sustainable strategy in Mesoamerica. We are finally working towards that goal! We invite you to join us welcoming Silvia Tum as new Abriendo Oportunidades program director.
Silvia is a young Kaqchikel woman with degrees in social work and gender studies. She speaks Kaqchikel, Spanish, and English. Silvia is not new to Abriendo. In fact, she is one of its oldest members: in 2004, Silvia was part of the first cohort of adolescents who participated in Abriendo's pilot program. At the time, she returned to school, finished her secondary education and participated as mentor with Population Council for a couple of years. She is now back, after a few years as a consultant and also as fellow with the USAID mission in Guatemala.
Silvia will lead efforts to strengthen mentors' networks in Chisec, Totonicapán, Yucatán, and other regions where young women are organized and implement the Abriendo model. She and I will share this page and we hope to bring updates on scale up activities very soon!
2017 was a busy year of important decisions for Abriendo Oportunidades. We wrapped up work in 100 communites in Petén and graduated our first class of lower secondary students. We learned much about incorporating Abriendo principles into the secondary curricula and found important allies in community leaders who see distance education as the one viable option to solve access to school in the immediate future. This approach is matched by mentors' desire to become school teachers in their communities and provide quality education in their local language. Our secondary school experiment has also demonstrated that women of different ages are eager to return to school and learn new skills. In 2018 we hope to graduate a second class of secondary school students. More importantly, still, will be our efforts to ensure that the mentors' Abriendo platforms have the skills necessary to make the program sustainable in the long term. How do we plan to achieve this? Firstly, by listening to mentors' needs and ideas. Secondly, by working jointly and critically to address gaps in their management and fundraising skils. 2018 will be an exciting year to work on the structures necessary for Abriendo to become a solid platform of young indigenous women committed to quality research, program development and grassroots advocacy.
The Population Council is building a new component to test the effectiveness of bicycles to increase school attendance among girls who enroll in the alternative model of secondary education. Adolescent girls often cite distance and cost of transportation as the principal barriers to enroll in secondary school. Most rural communities lack these services, leaving girls with no options. With the support of UNFPA, bikes were provided to adolescent girls to ride to school. Many of them had never riden a bike, so learning was an experience that also allowed their fathers and brothers to show their support. So far, we have noticed that girls with bicycles continue their school attendance, have reinforced their social assets as they ride together -as much as 8km- to go to school with other girls, and have increased their mobility visiting other communities to buy and sell products on market days.
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