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Why It Works

Our Innovation

Starfish is among the few organizations that is led and run by indigenous staff (Starfish in Guatemala is 85 percent female and 90 percent indigenous) from the same communities we serve. As outliers themselves, Starfish mentors and coaches are uniquely qualified to guide Girl Pioneers as they embark on new trajectories. All Starfish staff are at or beyond the university level, and all are the most educated members of their own families. As women from the same villages and Mayan communities as the Girl Pioneers and families, Starfish staff model and foster the same resiliency and growth-mindset necessary to become powerful agents of change.

Through combining powerful innovation with cultural attunement and empathy, the Starfish program overcomes lasting paradigms of exclusion. Each year, Starfish staff receive hundreds of hours of training from international experts and thought-leaders. This content is then contextualized to fit the needs of rural, Mayan young women. These partnerships have been crucial in propelling Starfish’s success and bolstering our intentional organizational culture.

Results

GOAL 1: Her economic autonomy and mobility – Can she choose where she lives, where she works, and the type of life she wants to lead?

All Girl Pioneers live below the poverty line (defined as roughly $1000/year or less per person) when they join the Starfish program. The per capita annual income in Guatemala is $3500 USD, and our goal is that each Starfish graduate will exceed that amount after graduating from the program.
As of January 2016, 85 percent of graduates are working, with 57 percent employed outside the home—80 percent at either a school or NGO. Eight percent are at or above the income goal, and another 75 percent appear to be on track to reach that level.

GOAL 2: Her family on her terms – Teenage pregnancy and marriage can artificially lower the ceiling of her potential. Is she empowered to choose a different path?

Fifty-seven percent of indigenous girls in Guatemala are married and/or mothers by age 18. Starfish encourages its graduates to delay marriage and pregnancy until they are an average of 26 years old and in a stable position to support a family.
Currently, 90 percent of Starfish Girl Pioneers ranging in age from 18 to 27 remain unmarried and without children.

GOAL 3: Her lifelong learning – Is she a lifetime learner? Did she break through the centuries of educational exclusion?

The average indigenous adult in Guatemala has 2.5 years of schooling. Starfish strives to achieve an average of 15 years of formal schooling among its graduates.
Fifty-seven percent of graduates are in university or taking classes.

GOAL 4: Her leadership – Is she empowered to empower?

Guatemala has the lowest level of female political participation in the hemisphere. Though informal influence cannot be measured, Starfish does track levels of formal influence.
Among graduates, 74 percent are members of community organizations. Fifty-seven percent of graduates have held leadership positions either within their Starfish mentor groups or in their community organizations.

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