Educating the Girls
How do we work with girls at Ak’tenamit:
The Ak’ Tenamit staff and high school female students visit local villages to promote the
importance of having girls stay in their local schools through the 6 th grade and encourage them to continue on with a middle and high school education at Ak’ Tenamit. They talk with parents,
teachers and community leaders about why it is important for a girl to continue an education.
Annually a Girls Education Workshop is held at the AK’ Tenamit school campus. Girls are
invited to the site for a motivational weekend of talks led by indigenous women leaders, alumni,
current students and staff. Activities are held to build self-esteem, and teach the girls about their basic rights, and cultural pride among other topics.
Because traditionally girls are not encouraged to leave their homes or finish an educational career, extracurricular activities are planned to motivate and support the girls during their time at Ak’Tenamit. Activities include remedial classes, bonding and recreational activities, self-esteem building and counseling. Many have never left their homes and maybe the first girl or even the first child to attend a secondary education school. With very little or no resources, trips back home for a visit are infrequent. Many come from totally different physical environments (high, cold highlands) and adapting to the hot, humid river can be difficult. Having this extra support for the girls has become an extremely important factor in keeping them in school and having them obtain a high school diploma.
“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
Closing the Gender Gap and Reducing Domestic Violence
Discrimination against women pervades all levels of Guatemala, from the countryside to the capital. This inequality, however, is strongest within indigenous communities and domestic violence against women is far too common.
At Ak’ Tenamit, we make a point to promote gender equality in everything we do and improve local gender relations.
“The men and women at our workshops say that talking about [gender equality] is very important for their communities. The women don’t know where to turn to resolve domestic problems and, as a result, their families fall apart.”
– Ana Consuelo Tzalám Paquiun, Gender Based Violence and HIV Program Coordinator, Ak’ Tenamit
Promoting gender equality
Within Ak’ Tenamit’s leadership
- Our statutes require the Board of Directors to be half women and half men
- Leadership in student organizations is 50% female and 50% male
At Ak’ Tenamit’s secondary school
- Actively encourage girls to stay in school through the We Must Educate the Girls program
- Students attend national conferences related to the role of indigenous women and women’s rights
In local villages:
- Our health program prioritizes women’s health
- Much of our community development work is aimed at improving women’s livelihoods
- Organize alternative income projects for women
Discouraging gender violence
- Organize workshops that discuss women’s rights and discourage violence against women and children
- With Ak’ Tenamit’s students and teachers
- With local health promoters and midwives
- With community members
- With teachers from surrounding schools
- Make public service announcements on local radio stations discouraging violence
- Provide support for women suffering violence
- Publicize where abused women can find help
- Health promoters and midwives talk to patients about gender violence and help victims find solutions