Empowering Girls in the Guatemalan Highlands through Economic Rights and Entrepreneurship Training

by Rachel Dotson   on February 22, 2019   in

On a warm day in late June, a group of 13 adolescent girls gathered in the offices of Colectivo Vida Digna, a nonprofit organization in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala that partners with KIND to provide reintegration support to immigrant children returning to Guatemala from the United States and Mexico and also engages youth and their families in programming on Maya culture and identity.


The girls were participating  in the final session of a 16-workshop series called Ix Kame Le Rapapem Re Ajq´apoj, a phrase in K’iche that refers to the beginning of the process in which young people seek out their path in life. The workshops focused on economic empowerment for Maya Mam and K’iche adolescent girls to help counter the marginalization they and many indigenous people face in Guatemala. Participants learned about their economic rights, entrepreneurship, and sustainable local economies, and planned and implemented their own small business venture. This program is part of a larger effort by Colectivo Vida Digna, in partnership with KIND, to support and empower girls who are affected by migration.


Economic empowerment programming is especially vital in the western highlands of Guatemala, where girls and young women have limited economic options outside of domestic labor and making and selling tortillas, work that pays extremely low wages and involves poor labor conditions. Indigenous girls and women also face wide-spread discrimination based on their gender and ethnicity, which limits their ability to pursue economic opportunities and leaves them vulnerable to labor abuses. Through Ix Kame Le Rapapem Re Ajq´apoj, girls gain the knowledge, skills, self-confidence, and support they need to imagine and pursue a range of options for their futures, including education, employment, and entrepreneurship.


As the program drew to a close, the girls took stock of what they had learned and accomplished, and of their goals for the future. One by one, they stood in front of the room and shared their goals of finishing high school and attending university, pursuing careers as teachers, midwives, and lawyers, and starting their own businesses. The girls were excited, determined, and hopeful for their futures. With the skills and confidence they have gained through their participation in Ix Kame Le Rapapem Re Ajq´apoj, along with the ongoing support of Colectivo Vida Digna, they are ready to pursue their dreams.

Empoderando a las Mujeres Adolescentes en el altiplano de Guatemala a través de la Capacitación en Derechos Económicos y Emprendimiento


El pasado 23 de junio, un grupo de 13 mujeres adolescentes se unieron en las oficinas de Colectivo Vida Digna, una organización sin fines de lucro en Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. En conjunto con KIND, Vida Digna trabaja para brindar acompañamiento y apoyo a niñas, niños, y adolescentes migrantes que retornan a Guatemala desde los Estados Unidos y México, y también realiza programas sobre identidad y cultura Maya para jóvenes y sus familias.


La reunión del 23 de junio fue la última de una serie de 16 clases que se llama Ix Kame Le Rapapem Re Ajq´apoj, una frase en K´iche que se refiere al momento en la vida de las y los jóvenes en el que empiezan a buscar sus propios caminos. Las clases se enfocan en el empoderamiento económico para las mujeres adolescentes Maya, Mam, y K´iche. Las participantes aprenden sobres sus derechos económicos, el emprendimiento, y las economías complementarias, y desarrollaron su propio pequeño negocio de ventas. Este programa forma parte del trabajo de Colectivo Vida Digna, en conjunto con Kids in Need of Defense, para apoyar y empoderar a niñas y mujeres adolescentes afectadas por la migración.


El empoderamiento económico es especialmente importante en la zona oriente de Guatemala, donde las niñas y mujeres jóvenes tienen opciones económicas limitadas fuera del trabajo doméstico y la tortillería, trabajos que pagan poco y en muchos casos implican malas condiciones laborales. Las niñas y mujeres indígenas también se enfrentan con la discriminación en base de su género y etnicidad, lo cual limita sus opciones económicas y las expone a abusos laborales. A través de Ix Kame Le Rapapem Re Ajq´apoj, las mujeres adolescentes obtienen los conocimientos, capacidades, autoconfianza, y apoyo que necesitan para imaginar y perseguir un rango de opciones educativos y laborales para sus futuros.


Al concluir el programa, las participantes evaluaron lo que habían aprendido y logrado, y reflexionaron acerca de sus metas para el futuro. Una por una, ellas se pararon frente a la sala y compartieron sus metas para terminar con el bachillerato e ir a la universidad, dedicarse a profesiones tales como abogada, comadrona, y profesora, y abrir sus propios negocios. Las participantes se mostraron entusiasmadas, determinadas, y con esperanza hacia el futuro. Con las capacidades y la confianza que han desarrollado a través de su participación en Ix Kame Le Rapapem Re Ajq´apoj, junto con el apoyo de Colectivo Vida Digna, están preparadas para perseguir sus sueños.

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