At Starfish, we believe that girls can change the world. Time and again, development studies have proven that one of the most efficient ways to effect change on a societal level is to ensure young women can participate fully in society and become leaders in their community.
According to a recent report by the Malala Fund, 32 million girls are currently missing out on the first three years of secondary education, and millions more who start never graduate. The first target of UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 is to ensure that all girls and boys complete free and equitable quality primary and secondary education. While enrollment in primary education in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, current trends suggest it will be another 95 years before there is parity in girls’ lower secondary education for the poorest 20 percent.
Guatemala has the greatest gender inequity in the Western Hemisphere, and young indigenous women in rural areas face the greatest barriers to education, often due to a lack of physical access to education centers or an absence of curricula in their native languages. According to the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, only 10 percent of indigenous girls who live in rural Guatemalan communities are enrolled in secondary school, and less than 1 percent continue on to university. The average Mayan teenage girl in Guatemala has obtained only 3.5 years of education and the average Mayan adult only 2.5 years.
Further compounding this problem is the severely substandard Guatemalan educational system. According to the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, only 10 percent of high school graduates meet international standards of literacy, and only 8.5 percent reach the standards of math comprehension. It is estimated that fewer than 15 percent of public schools in Guatemala possess the basic facilities needed for teaching and learning (Guatemalan Ministry of Education). Within this context, it is no surprise that a recent study revealed that 80 percent of teachers could not pass the tests they gave to their own students (Council on Hemispheric Affairs).
Schools in rural Guatemala lack both quality and quantity. These debilitating factors severely impede each young woman’s ability to realize her full potential as a productive employee, social changemaker, and leader.