CHRISTMAS IN GUATEMALA
Women Work Together spent 3 weeks in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, Guatemala, returning just before Christmas. Our team of American and Guatemalan staff was supported by a truly incredible Spanish-speaking group of Colorado volunteers and dedicated community members from San Pedro. Weeks 1 and 2 were devoted to morning visits to Girls Clubs and afternoon workshops with their Mothers in 7 villages or aldeas. Because school isn’t in session after October, we had no idea how many girls were going to show up, but we were overwhelmed with the response!!! In San Pedro Petz, for example, we were expecting 30, but ended up registering nearly 70 girls from two clubs. During Week 2, we also provided all-day workshops for junior high schools teachers and WWT extension workers. Week 3 began with leadership training for 175 representatives of women’s mutual support groups. Normally, that many women only show up for celebrations like International Women’s Day, so we were delighted with the attendance for participatory training. The next day was devoted to 70 lideresas, or teen leaders who have been attending our Institutes or leadership conferences. These young women thrilled us with their commitment to their schooling and determination to control their own lives.
What was amazing about this visit was the enthusiastic expression of support for our campaign, “Send Your Daughter to School.” Again and again, we heard statements like this one from traditionally dressed, poor Mayan women: “Years ago, our parents didn’t send girls to school, so we can’t read or write. But now we understand how important it is to educate our daughters. Even though it’s a struggle, we’re doing it!!” We were especially pleased that several fathers attended our “Mothers” sessions and worked with their daughters on art projects expressing their hopes and dreams for the future.
Sadly, we encountered teens where lack of resources was so dire they were being forced to drop out of school. Fifteen-year old Elizabeta was proud of a collage that expressed her dream to be a dancer when she grows up. “Unfortunately,” she said, “this is an impossible dream.” Why? Elizabeta’s father abandoned the family of five when she was born. Her illiterate mother has no way to earn money besides cutting fodder for local animals. So when school starts in January, Elizabeta will have to find a job to help her family survive.
Illiterate mothers do not have to breed illiterate daughters. Women Work Together helps women and girls strategize around this kind of frustrating powerlessness by supporting Girls Institutes and more than 100 women’s organizations in San Pedro. When women and girls talk about this kind of situation, they are taking the first step toward solving it. Thank you to the many supporters whose thoughtful donations make this work possible.