Las Hermanitas, a mentoring program in San Pedro Sacatepequez, San Marcos, Guatemala, gives teen girls the opportunity to pair up with second graders in a Big Sister/Little Sister relationship. The teens help their little sisters with schoolwork, especially reading, and motivate them to stay in school. Serving the community in this way also improves each big sister's self-esteem and further validates her importance as a role model, thus reinforcing the benefits of education for herself.
After decades of civil war, Guatemala suffers from one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world. Education is grossly inadequate across the board, but this dire situation is even worse for poor indigenous girls. Many Mayan girls never go to school at all, and when they do enroll, they are much more likely to drop out early. In a recent survey almost 100% of the women polled in San Pedro Sacatepequez (most of them illiterate) said they wanted their own daughters to go to school.
Las Hermanitas is in 3 villages, with 150 girls who are most at-risk for dropping out of school. Second graders drop out because they aren't doing well in their studies and their parents see no reason to invest in school when their labor is needed at home. Teens drop out to work, or when they marry prematurely or become pregnant. By pairing teen mentors with 8 year old girls, Las Hermanitas makes a twofold impact at just the right time. In 2013 we plan to expand to 400 girls in 5 villages.
Women Work Together has unlocked the potential of hundreds of Mayan girls to stay in school, enabling them to earn more, have smaller and healthier families and better gender relations. Not only is a girl who stays in school bucking the trend of female illiteracy, but she serves as an active and visible model for other girls as well. Educated women send their daughters, indeed all of their children, to school.
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