"We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality."
The indigenous women of rural Guatemala suffer from the lack of economic opportunity, health care, and education. They also suffer from early marriage, discrimination, sexual violence, machismo and femicide. Gender-based violence has increased during the COVID19 pandemic. Many rural Mayan mothers will see their children die of malnourishment and disease. Many impoverished rural families will be inclined to reduce the burden of taking care of their young girls during the pandemic by pushing them into earlier marriages.
On a Saturday morning in February 2021, women led a bicycle caravan into Guatemala City protesting huge increases in violence against women, children and youth in Guatemala. This protest followed the killing of 8 year old Sharon Figueroa who was playing on her bike when she went missing. It took two days before her body was found in a northern region of Guatemala. Women, children and youth rode their bikes to the Constitutional Plaza, lining up in front of the presidential palace - which was lined with police protecting the building. They chanted, "We just want to play in peace."
In 2020, over 500 femicides were reported and 60 children were killed. After so many Guatemalan girls have gone missing, the cry for justice is strong. Women want to be able to be physically safe. They want to be mentally safe to have the freedom to express their thoughts for the benefit of society.
We at Guatemala Family Development play a role in having the voices of indigenous rural women be heard. Our new Educational Residence is giving young girls/women the confidence, knowledge and a fluency in Spanish to be part of the evolving Guatemalan society. Our scholarships, granted to students ages 8 through 16, have helped provide a quality education from which the whole society benefits. In residence, the girls receive nutritious food, access to medical and dental care, clothing, and the ability to grow strong friendships in an environment that cultivates learning.
These women will go back to their families, their communities and their villages as an example of what the benefit of getting an education makes possible. Likely, their thinking will be broadened, they will be able to earn more and invest wages back into their families, possibly marry later, have smaller families and value an education for their future children (whether girl or boy). It is our hope and prayer that they will be able to lead with the love, knowledge and patience that they have received in residence.