Individual Guatemala

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Individual Guatemala

Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Antonieta Castro Abaj helps marginalized, indigenous Guatemalan women become knowledgeable civic participants who are willing to defend their otherwise neglected human rights and even pursue leadership positions.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The signing of the Peace Accords in 1996 brought an end to the 36-year civil war in Guatemala, which had arisen due to the social, political, and economic exclusion of indigenous Guatemalans. Although some doors have now been opened for the indigenous population—for instance, the Guatemalan state has established a law against discrimination and made indigenous languages official—real change has been limited. More than 50 percent of the poor, rural, primarily indigenous population lacks basic services and only 7 percent of its homes have access to telephones, radios, or other communication methods. Despite the law, indigenous people effectively have been denied the use of their own languages. When Antonieta as a Spanish speaker accompanies women to municipal offices, they receive more effective, less scornful attention than when the non-Spanish speaking women go by themselves. The problems of the Guatemalan indigenous population are common to the rest of Central America and southern Mexico. For a region still recovering from revolution, insurrection, and persistent fighting, the risk of continued exclusion of significant portions of the population is more violence and all its ramifications. Indigenous women, in particular, remain marginalized across the region, discouraged from participating as full citizens. Women do not have the same opportunities as men to study, to learn Spanish, to leave their communities and expand their reality, to serve in public office. Although other organizations have made efforts to reach out to this population, results have been limited because of the persistent lack of political voice and power. After years of oppression, even mistreatment at the hands of their own communities has become normal for indigenous women. Traditional approaches to women’s rights have little appeal in these collective societies where everyone is struggling just to survive economically.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Through the organization of citizenship study groups, Antonieta equips rural, often illiterate, indigenous women with the knowledge, confidence, and tools necessary for active civic participation. In communities where discussion of women's rights can be contentious, futile, and thus unappealing to women, Antonieta offers instead the promise of economic opportunity, using microcredit and productive projects as an incentive for women to engage in the citizenship study groups. The study groups explore themes that range from local community issues to national politics and indigenous women's rights. Antonieta simultaneously helps the women obtain identity cards and register to vote. Through this process, participants become active daily citizens, not only voting, but also defending their rights and running for public office.