In many Guatemalan communities, a culture of machismo remains prevalent, and ideal of gender equality is unfortunately is unfortunately an aspiration and far from the reality. The advancement in society of women is crucial to the development of the country as a whole. Meet Petrona, a woman who is determined to building a better future for herself, her family, and her community.
In the rural area of the Department of Sololá in Guatemala, located in the western highlands, there are many families that are dedicated to agriculture. In these families, women typically are responsible for the breeding of animals and the creation of textiles that are traditional to the area. From an early age, women learn to weave and/or embroider so that in the future they can make their own traditional clothing. In the municipality of Santa Lucía Utatlán, there are small factories where they make clothes such as pants, shirts, and jackets.
In large families with limited economic resources, the children are often limited in terms of opportunities available to them. Normally the older children assist in raising the younger siblings and ensuring they are in good health. Still, such larger families, in particular, often struggle to meet basic needs. This is the case of Mirian, a married 32 year-old mother of two who grew up in a large family of nine siblings (seven sisters and two brothers).
In addition to having one of the largest and most colorful markets in Central America, Chichicastenango is known for its hardworking men and women and K’iche Mayan culture. It is located about 90 miles from the capital, Guatemala City, and has 85 communities within it. Agricultural and artisanal production are among the most prevalent economic activities in the area. Among the artisanal products, one may find looms; figures and drawings; bags; wallets; toys; hammocks; clothes; musical instruments; masks; wooden furniture; baskets; palm hats; leather products such as shoes, bags, hats; jewelry; and candles. For thousands of years, the locals have passed the wisdom about handicraft production from generation to generation. That is how Martina, 41 years old and a mother of six, learned the craft.
Gender inequality remains rampant across Guatemala, and it often has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable sectors of society, such as the rural indigenous communities. Girls have been particularly affected, and they remain burdened with far more obligations than rights. This is the case of Rosario, currently 48 years old and a mother of four. She is originally from the rural community Cantel in the department of Quetzaltenango. The residents of Cantel place work primarily in the production of textiles, handicrafts, agricultural activity, livestock, and trade.
The popular municipality of Chichicastenango, located in the department of Quiché and frequented by national and international tourists alike, is also the home of Tomasa. 35 years old, married and the mother of four children between the ages of 7 and 19, Tomasa is happy to live in a place like Chichicastenango; she mentions the abundance of fruits such as apples, plums, and peaches as one of the perks her town offers.
Chichicastenango is one of the most important villages in Guatemala. Home to the Quiche Maya civilization, one of the largest ethnic groups on country, this place epitomizes the Mayan culture, history, and traditions of Guatemala.
Every Thursday and Sunday, the locals flock to what has been deemed the largest market in Central America. Here they sell their products - ranging from traditional crafts, table runners, bags and purses, paintings, and Mayan masks to fruits, vegetables, and other foods to the sale of animals such as chickens, goats, and pigs, among others.
The municipality of Cantel is located within the department of Quetzaltenango in the Guatemalan highlands. The main form of livelihood of the residents there is agriculture. They grow basic grains such as corn, beans, broad beans, and vegetables (e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, beets, potatoes, squash, radish, chard). The production is extensive and harvests are on an annual basis. Many women there also engage in informal trade as well as weaving.
Micaela was the fourth of six children. Her father was a day laborer and her mother a housewife. The pervasive machismo culture in Guatemala manifested itself in Micaela's father's lack of support for girls' education - she was only able to attend school until the second grade, and to this day she laments not having had the opportunity to continue. When Micaela was eight, her father passed away due to an illness not treated in time. This was a tragedy for her family, and he had also been the sole provider of the family. Following the passing of their father, Micaela and her siblings found themselves having to ask their neighbors for a donation of firewood or food because they themselves did not have enough.
In many rural communities in Guatemala, there are very few opportunities for women's advancement. Still, these women, eager to drive development and be agents of change; work hard and seek new skills that will empower them, that will enable them to provide for and improve the lives of their families. This is the case of Julia, a married 48-year-old woman and mother of six children between the ages of 13 and 28.
Santa Lucía Utatlán is a municipality located about 95 miles from Guatemala City, in the west of the country. It is one of the nineteen municipalities of the Department of Sololá.
56-year-old Francisca is from a rural community in this region. She grew up in a family of eight siblings (five sisters, two brothers). Francisca attended school under sixth grade; her parents did not support education for girls, as they found it unnecessary considering their daughters would get young, regardless. In her childhood and adolescence, Francisca divided her time between school, herding sheep, helping with household chores, and playing basketball, which she did secretly, as her parents did not support her playing sports.
Investing in women's economic empowerment has been proven to contribute directly to gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. Women contribute in a very significant way to the economy through - among other activities - their small businesses and ventures. Especially in Guatemala, investing in a woman is investing in a better life for an entire family. 47-year-old Ruth, mother of four, exemplifies this empowerment.