These past three months have been very busy and exciting! Abriendo Oportunidades is scaling up and incorporating a weekly radio program to add to the regular club meetings. We have started work in 50 new communities in the municipality of Chisec, a predominantly Q'eqchi' area in the department of Alta Verapaz. This region has some of the worst indicators in terms of maternal health, maternal and child mortality and early marriages and pregnancies. School drop out rate is high and girls barely finish the 6th grade.
We have an excellent team on the ground visiting communities and engaging leaders, parents and adolescent girls in AO. The mayor of Chisec has been incredibly supportive and this has helped us establish our activities more efficiently. The logistics of the scale up are great, since we have continued with our mission of reaching the poorest, most distant and forgotten communities. The pictures attached correspond to some of these villages.
We hope to add 50 new communities every year. With your support, we may reach even more!
While Abriendo Oportunidades focus will remain in investing in adolescent girls, young men from five different communities approached us to participate in some of our activities. These young men are working closely with girl leaders organizing co-ed activities as well as inviting younger boys to learn about rights, equality, and prevention of gender based violence. This past June, young male leaders from participating communities joined 45 girl leaders in a one week workshop that included activities to reflect and discuss about issues related to gender relations, myths, prejudices and possible new paradigms that will improve the life of girls in rural communities.
Girl leaders began using our new curricula after the November leaders' camp. During the past months we have observed participants' increased knowledge on the topics including the importance of safe spaces for girls to meet, gender, sorority, and self esteem. Girl leaders find the new curriculum more user friendly and the activities easy to follow and plan for. Our March leaders' camp was also successful, allowing girl leaders to practice new activities and learn new topics.
Some Abriendo Oportunidades graduates have been invited to apply to different positions to work as community outreach facilitators. Feedback from these organizations has been very positive regarding graduates' skills such as leading learning sessions, capacity to engage community leaders, and ability to plan and strategize community outreach activities. We are very happy to know that young women who benefitted from the program are now finding interesting and meaningful work in rural Guatemala.
Grassroots organizations from different parts of Guatemala have reached out to us to request that we open girl clubs in new communities. We hope that fundraising can help us expand to new areas where our program is already seen as a positive investment in girls' empowerment and education.
We are grateful for all donations received through GlobalGiving. They are allowing us to improve the quality of training camps and also cover the cost of some girl leaders' participation and materials.
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!
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