Madres e Hijas (Mothers and Daughters)
A girl's education requires support from many adults, notably teachers and parents. Beginning in March 2012, Women Work Together introduced a new program in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, Guatemala, called Madres e Hijas whose goal is to jump-start a continuing series of activities that cultivate parental commitment and community involvement in girls' education. It is the first step towards parents sharing the practical difficulties of educating daughters, brainstorming solutions, and sending at least one girl in every family to school.
Why focus on Madres e Hijas
While Girls Clubs can become dynamic focus groups for discussing issues that concerns the teens, one serious challenge to sending daughters to school is that many of their mothers dropped out of school as youngsters or never attended at all. And, as a result, they can neither read nor write. Girls lament that their mothers do not show interest in their homework; nor do they appreciate what being in school means on a day-to-day basis. It is clear that worldwide, there exists a strong correlation between illiterate parents and an elevated dropout rate for their children, especially daughters.
A second problem raised by adolescent girls is boyfriends, sex, and teen pregnancy. A cultural taboo in rural San Pedro makes it difficult for daughters to confide in their mothers about their changing bodies during puberty. Nor do they feel that mothers welcome daughters’ confiding in them about young love.
Taken together, these issues inspired WWT to work with our local partners, (Mujeres Trabajan Unidas) and collaborating educators to create appropriate participatory programs for the Girls Club members that
- involve mothers in their daughters’ school work, particularly, reading and writing,
- provide a focus for mothers and daughters to work together on a common project,
- offer designated time periods through the week where mothers and daughters could develop comfortable levels of conversation and mutual confidence.
Madres e Hijas Pilot Programs
1) La Vida de Mi Mama (My Mother’s Life Story) invites girls and their mothers to write the mother’s life story together. Through a series of guided interviews, mothers relate their oral histories to their daughters. The product is a book of memories and stories produced by the pair and proudly shared with Girls Clubs from other participating villages.
2) La Lectura Familiar (Family Reading Time) involves uneducated mothers in their daughters’ schooling through at-home sharing of the magic of books and reading. WWT has found that reading aloud is an engaging activity for small groups. In women’s leadership workshops, we have been impressed by the attentiveness of older women to simple children’s books read to them by their daughters.
Madres e Hijas is a forum where the more subtle but vital seeds of systemic change can take root across the generations. The long-term goal for this program is to replace the common preference for immediate benefits to the family of a girl's labor with the parents' willingness to invest in the greater long-term benefits of education for their daughters, their family, and their community. We know that this is becoming the case because more and more, mothers’ answers to the often-posed question, "How can we ensure that our daughters have a better life than we do?" is "By sending our daughters to school."
We should note that WWT is mindful of the need for fathers to be involved in activities focused on their daughters’ education, and will be piloting a series of workshops along those lines in Fall 2012. For now, our challenge is to enhance the mother-daughter connection both in terms of school and more personal communication.
Madre e Hijas
The Family Reads Together