When it comes to achieving gender parity, girls in Guatemala have the odds stacked against them, especially if they live in rural indigenous communities. Fortunately, the story does not end there, and Girl Pioneers are pressing for progress. The young women in the Starfish program are standing tall in the face of adversity to change their futures and the futures of their families, communities, and country.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report, released last year by the World Economic Forum, it will take 217 years to close the gender gap. This means the world would not reach gender equity—fair treatment and representation of women and men—until the year 2235! This is incredibly unnerving for women everywhere, but particularly in Guatemala, the country with the largest gender equity gap in the Western Hemisphere. Now is the time to push for the rights of women and girls around the world. Not only do women deserve deserve equal rights, but the educational, economic, and health outcomes for societies at large improve when women have equal rights. We cannot be content to wait 200 years to realize this vision.
Women play a vital role in our world and we cannot flourish without them. McKinsey & Company, a renowned management consulting firm, estimates that the global economy could grow by as much as $12 trillion if women could participate equally. They state, “If women—who account for half the world’s working-age population—do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer.”
This is why Starfish has set four organizational goals for all of our Girl Pioneers to strive towards:
- Economic Independence & Financial Autonomy: She is earning above minimum wage and is able to make her own financial decisions. When a girl enters the program, her family generally spends about $1,000 per year on her for all her needs. The goal is that she will graduate and earn a salary of at least minimum wage, $3,500 a year.
- Her Family on Her Terms: She will wait until she is at least 25 to get married and have children. We believe that when she is 25 she will be on a career path earning her own income and be physically and emotionally ready to start a family.
- Lifelong Learning: She is encouraged to continue studying after high school because each additional learning opportunity will open more doors for her. Our goal is for her to receive 15 years of schooling.
- Unlocking Leadership Potential: She can participate actively in her community and take on leadership roles to make the changes she wants to see. Approximately 40 percent of graduates currently hold leadership roles through community service projects, NGOs, and formal employment positions.
In Guatemala, women are systematically discriminated against and undervalued. Guatemala ranks third around the world in rates of femicide, or gender-based murder of women, and is home to the lowest level of female political participation in the hemisphere. It has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Latin America with 44 percent of girls giving birth to at least one child by the time they are 18 years old. Among indigenous women, 68 percent of uneducated young women are mothers by age 20 and the average indigenous woman stays in school about two years.
The circumstances of women around the world, and specifically in Guatemala, are challenging, but each Girl Pioneer demonstrates the motivation and capacity to change the world. We are motivated to educate girls in rural Guatemala so that they can challenge inequitable social norms and push for a world that acknowledges and honors the dignity and value of women.
We envision a world in which there is empowerment, equality, and opportunity for all. How do we get there? We exist to support young indigenous women so that they can reach their full potential and lead transformational change. Through a combination of access to holistic mentorship, peer-to-peer support, familial engagement, and a school providing high-quality education, we equip them to lead choice-filled lives as female agents of change.
There is no better time to #PressForProgress for women’s equality. This movement can’t wait another 200 years. Join us as we support girls in Guatemala to take control of their future, achieve their goals, and change our world for the better. Take a stand in honor of women all over the world by investing in Girl Pioneers as they press for progress. The journey won’t be easy, but it is absolutely worth it.
This is the first post in a blog series in honor of the important contributions that women have made throughout history and continue to make in our world. The other posts in the series are “Her Infinite Impact: Chonita’s Story of Determination” and “If She Can Do It, I Can Do It.”