Community Center where the girls meet
The following is a postcard from Lydia Sorensen, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Guatemala, about her recent visit to Population Council.
High up in the mountains of Guatemala, in a little pueblo called Xesacmalja, there is a growing movement towards women empowerment. In a community where it was the norm (and for some still is) for girls to marry around twelve or thirteen, and start having children not much later, some young women have begun to work to change that. As one participant, Angelica, explained to me, having an Abriendo Oportunidades group here has changed their way of thinking. Before, she says, she thought perhaps to go to the US, but now she wants to stay and work within her community. It’s a testament to the power of this project, and her own strength, that it’s hard to believe the confident and well-spoken young woman describing her group is the same one as the timid girl she says she was before.
Angelica is just one of the over thirty girls and young women Population Council is working with in Xesacmalja. The younger girls (starting at age 8) attend a weekly group led by a mentor named Elizabeth, who is a former member of a girl group herself. They gather in a safe place (here it’s a community center) where they can express themselves without fear of repercussions, to learn about health, human rights, and self-esteem. The older girls are part of a network that is working to improve their community as a whole. Someday the network hopes to continue the work that Abriendo Oportunidades has started and expand to new communities to help other girls.
In this K’iche’ community, change is in the air. Girls gather to play futbol in front of the local school, and supervise the painting of the community building. They confidently talk about their problems, and the challenges that women in their community face, not just to each other but with outsiders as well. More than anything, however, is the overwhelming feeling of hope, and optimism for the future, that fills the thin mountain air. Angelica and the other young women are improving the situation for women here, and it’s just a matter of time before they improve things in other locations as well.
Girls playing soccer in front of the school
Angelica (on right) and her fellow changemaker