My idea is to marry income generation and health education to offer young women real alternatives to early motherhood through the establishment of an artisan cooperative, Semillas de Luz (Seeds of Light), which would promote rich cultural textile traditions of indigenous Guatemala.
FESIRGUA, an indigenous women’s network of nine NGOs, runs an adolescent pregnancy prevention program, Abriendo Oportunidades (AO). AO recruits young women as one-year fellows and empowers them to chart their own life path. Fellows gain valuable job skills and earn a livable stipend as health educators and mentors for younger girls in their communities.
In June 2009, FESIRGUA started a network of young women in order to continue offering personal and professional development activities for former fellows. The young women in this network, however, do not receive any sort of stipend or income. As a result, over half of the fellows are financially unable to participate in the network. Moreover, many of the young women have few job opportunities available to them. Although AO provides valuable health education and job skills to their fellows, the program fails to truly enable them to continue on their desired life path.
I initially became passionate about Semillas de Luz three years ago when I spent three months helping FESIRGUA evaluate AO. Since then, Silvia Xinico (AO director) and I have continued communicating about one day starting an artisan cooperative using indigenous textiles to create products marketable in Guatemala and the US. Semillas de Luz would offer meaningful lasting employment to fellows which would enable the women to continue sowing seeds of light on their life path. The cooperative would also provide AO with additional funding to continue their efforts educating younger girls about reproductive health and introducing alternatives to early marriage and early motherhood.