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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