Guatemalan Mayan women are oppressed and overwhelmingly excluded from accessing educational opportunities. Many Mayan girls drop out of school by 3rd grade and only 10% finish elementary school. Girls who leave school marry young, have large families, and face a grueling home life. It is well documented that this lack of education is a primary reason that communities remained trapped in a cycle of poverty.
Since 1994, Ak’ Tenamit has implemented a UN program called We Must Educate the Girls, which has resulted in steady growth in the number of village girls finishing sixth grade and entering high school.
Each year we organize a conference designed to inspire girls to complete elementary school and continue studying. This August, 115 girls from local communities attended the 3-day conference.
During the conference, coordinators and current students led discussions with the girls about the importance of education, their role in public spaces, their rights as Mayan women, self-esteem, and the educational opportunities that Ak’ Tenamit offers. Several mothers also shared their experiences as uneducated women and strongly encouraged the girls to pursue a degree so that they would not be condemned to the same life that they were.
“I never studied. My parents didn’t give me the opportunity to move ahead and that is the reason that now I am the mother of 10 children. That’s why I insist that you all [the girls] continue studying because it’s the most important thing in a woman’s life.”
- Lucia Xol, age 35, mother who spoke to girls during workshop