Saving Girls: Combating Urban Violence and Poverty through Arts and Technology

Saving Girls: Combating Urban Violence and Poverty through Arts and Technology

GuatemalaGuatemala City, Guatemala
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Saving Girls combats violence and poverty with 3-year vocational training in arts and technology. We target at-risk, Guatemala City girls with few opportunities to compete in a male dominated society

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We address the lack of education and employment opportunities for at-risk young women from the poorest,most violent barrios in Guatemala City. They face *Crime. One of highest crime indexes in Latin America with 44 murders/100,000 inhabitants. Over 2,500 Guatemalan women have been murdered since 2001. *Poverty/Gang Violence. Forced recruitment of women, rapes, murders and extortion with death threats are common. *Education. Guatemala ranks last in Latin America regarding women's education.50% of the population are younger than 15. Only 3% finish secondary school. *Wage Gap. The education gap results in wage inequality. 63% of poor, urban women have low wage jobs without benefits. *Lack of role models. With these challenges, few role models exist to inspire hope for a brighter future.

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

Fotokids empowers young women from poor areas of the capital, by complementing their traditional high school education, with training in leadership, gender issues, critical thinking and creativity using the digital arts: photography,Photoshop, graphic design, web design, video production, writing and client management. Students leave the 3-year program with a professional portfolio, intern experience which prepares them for future employment, the confidence to secure a job in other sectors, a possible job with our design agency Jakaramba!, or a teaching post with Fotokids that offers a university scholarship. Additionally, they gain confidence in their own creative expertise and teaching experience through workshops with younger students. As women, in a society that favors men, they gain the necessary skills to secure employment and graduate from a program that engenders self assurance, stability and the security to look toward other options in life, breaking the chains of poverty.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Young women as a sector in Guatemalan society, especially those from urban poverty are largely ignored. Our program offers technology training that supplements their academic education. Our graduates can use these additional skills as a bonus to secure jobs in a myriad of venues. A young woman enters the program and begins with gender studies. Through peer discussions, a sense of feminine empowerment develops. At the same time students begin a study of photography in both theoretical terms (how women are represented in images) and in practical terms (technical aspects of photography). Tools of the trade are introduced, including Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, which promote discipline, provide knowledge in how to create and write brochures, banners and posters. Web design education is provided to support a growing need in the market. Assignments are given that promote internal growth, ranging from environmental portraits and studio lighting to the creation of advertising campaigns where students work with real clients.We are on our second and third graduating class.Most students from the first class, from destitute,violent barrios have gotten into the university, some work as free-lance designers, work professionally in Fotokids in-house design studio , are paid media arts teachers or have found jobs with non-profits. Each year, in Guatemala, 20,000 jobs become available for more than 800,000 applicants. With 70% of our population under 30 years of age, Saving Girls provides a strong, tangible, competitive edge for a population with historically very few options.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Fotokids is a wholly unique integrated program, offering individual mentoring. In Guatemala we are alone in preparing young women to work in media technology and with valuable skills in a competitive job market.The Fotokids design studio specifically targets other non-profits designing their web sites, logos, brochures, producing internet videos, providing skilled photography, and media workshops for their staff and employes its own program graduates in doing so. We have little competition from other design studios, given our selective marketing niche, strong reputation and reasonable pricing structure. We have a pool of professionally-trained young people that offer state-of-the art creative services, and at the same time are earning money to support themselves and their families.

Founding Story

The living conditions are critical in Guatemala. Violence makes it one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America, and there is no way out for young women. Poor and with no access to better jobs they become victims of gang and domestic violence. Fotokids has been working with young people for 21 years and had experimented successfully in the past with classes focused only on young women. As conditions in Guatemala have deteriorated, it was clear that young women were being left behind. They graduate from high school with limited “career degrees” in teaching, secretarial work or accounting. Over 85,000 students graduate each year with these same qualifications, and there are only 5,000 new jobs created. This was my "Aha!" moment. Unemployment statistics (estimated as high as 60%) and lack of educational opportunities make this an explosive issue. With over half of an uneducated population under 15, the hour has almost passed for Guatemala to compete in a global economy.
About You
About You
First Name


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About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, XX, Guatemala City

Country where this project is creating social impact

, XX

Age of Innovator


Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

* Mother Jones Photography Awards Finalists 1994, 1995
* Photo Imaging Educators Association, PIEA, over at least 4,000 entries annually from 7 countries
* Grand Prize portfolio award to Gladiz Jimenez, high school division 1999; Marta Lopez, portfolio Honorable Mention 2000; Baudilio Blanco, First Prize, best single image 2001; Carmelina Perez, Grand Prize single image 2002; Honorable Mention 2003, Daniel Gonzales and Estuardo Castro; 2004 Grand Prize Damaris Aguilar and Analy Lopez, Paola Flores and Marvin Cardenas; Honorable Mention 2005,Julio Lobos; First Prize GUARUMA, Jose Garcia; Second Prize, GUARUMA, Karen Avila, Exhibitor, 2006; Josefa Raxon Honorable Mention 2007 Franklin Ramirez; 2nd prize portfolio 2008, David Ixbalán; Honorable Mention 2008
Wendy Carillo; Exhibitor 2009, Jessica Lopez; Honorable Mention 2010 Franklin Ramirez; Finalist BBC Young Nature Photographers 2008, 2010 (32,000 entries from 78 countries)
* Holy Mendoza, Deysi Mendoza and Josefa Raxón were chosen as 6 out of 15,000 young people to present the Dalai Lama with an embroidered handwoven scarf from Santiago Atitlán during Seeds of Compasión in Seattle Washington 2008
* Nancy McGirr founder winner Lucie Humanitarian Award 2011
New York Times lensblog

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Equity.

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to better the lives of girls and women by leveraging technology? (select all applicable)

Access to technology, Access to education/training, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We believe Fotokids owes it's success to it's ability to provide an integrated program with emphasis on individual growth and development. In the Fotokids program we have had more than 20 young women enter or receive university degrees and they come from barrios where no one else has had the opportunity. They are studying, law, teaching, design, social work, journalism and architecture. This is amazing if you consider the poverty in which they live.
6 women are paid media teachers with Fotokids and 5 are now established members of the design studio Jakaramba. Those that graduated from the first class have worked as design or photo freelancers, are employed at other non-profits or are studying at the university. Previous students work have won awards and been featured in gallery exhibitions in Guatemala, London, S.Africa.
This is the only project of its kind in Guatemala: Fotokids puts cameras in the hands of girls and lets them explore their world, and professional opportunities in it.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

We have two more classes of 30 students currently enrolled, one of which graduates next year. We will incorporate additional, female professionals from the public sector as teachers, enabling us to expand courses exponentially. Early pregnancy, domestic violence and school drop-out rates are addressed by our academic scholarship program, design internships and vocational training. In the short term, we plan to expand into rural, indigenous areas where young women have even fewer resources and opportunities. By 2015, we will provide educational and vocational opportunities, leadership and critical thinking skills to more than 200 young women, benefiting more than 1,000 plus family members, reaching 5,000 members of the public and hundreds of thousands more through media outreach.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

: Despite the obvious educational and employable skills advantages we offer (free of charge) we have had problems recruiting young women because they have to stay home to take care of siblings, are expected to work at an early age to support the family, they fear jeopardizing their established routine or studies by taking on an additional challenge. They also often lack basic education and study skills.
 We have found that bringing them into our Fotokids program at an earlier age, 15-16, helps in formation, motivation and give us a chance to work with the family to resolve some of the above issues. Educational problems are dealt with by our program social worker who regularly does school and home visits and we provide mandatory tutoring for those who receive subject grades under 70%.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Recruit and select (including interviews and aptitude exam)15-20 applicants for each class

Task 2

Initiate our three-pronged vocational training, including photography, Illustrator and design concepts

Task 3

Evaluate each student's photo assignments and projects and determine students' talents and portfolio content

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Begin web design instruction, realize improvement in photographic and Photoshop skills

Task 2

Support students as they identify a client and provide creative services to that client with successful output

Task 3

Conduct a portfolio review and host a student exhibition featuring brochures, logos, client work, photos and web pages

Tell us about your partnerships

Previously Fotokids has received support from the following partners: Soros, Minister of Education, Municipality, USAID, the Canadian government, Reuters and the EU (see CV). Currently, we receive support from: Spanish Cooperación-giving foto workshops, Otis McAllister corporation (which supports the current program and a new program in the US) and partners including the Paiz Foundation, Create Good, Fototeca, ReutersAlertNet and workshops such as Design4Kids offer interships, video production, paying clientele, and generate real life business marketing opportunities for our students.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We have a young, motivated staff who are professionally trained and enjoy the challenge of coming up with creative solutions. They have the ability to produce websites, videos and graphic design in the for- and non-profit sector. In terms of needs, we would benefit from media arts professionals to support mentoring and education. Marketing/client research would be welcome to expand our data base.