I am from Guatemala, a country with many challenges. A country that has a huge potential, but also social indicators that tell us we are headed in a rough direction – 46% of children with chronic malnutrition, 6 years school attendance is the national average, and that average is expected to drop to 3.5 years of education after COVID (World Bank Projections). What country can we build like that?
It’s no surprise that Guatemala, also has a big gender gap index, meaning girls and women do not get the same opportunities, both in education, and in economic development.
Where to start reversing these cycles?
There are many places to start, but one that never fails is to start investing in women and girls.
It works every time.
As part of Wakami, and as part of Vital Voices Global and Vital Voices Guatemala, I have seen how women with a source of income, no matter how small, will prioritize the food and education for their children. One family at a time, malnutrition will decrease and will end in a family with a mother that has income and where boys and girls go to school equally. The average years of education for Wakami women´s children, coming from the most vulnerable communities, increases to as high as an 8-year average, with many girls and boys graduating from high school and attending college. These kids’ dreams are different from their mom’s dreams. For the mom’s, their dream was to be able to raise healthy and educated children. Their kids, these girls with an education, have bigger dreams – these girls believe they can fly, and they are flying. All because of a mom that will not compromise on their daughter’s education, despite living in a country that still believes it’s not worth to invest in the girls.
Yes, the way we see it, women can make magic given the proper training and the access to markets. In Wakami, we are passionate about hand made products and light manufacturing products. We see how hands that make bracelets or how a small sewing machine in a home, changes everything when it produces products that the markets want, products with high quality, products that even though are produced in a rural home, are so good they can travel the world. The income generated by these products, combined with training, scholarships and other activities that create a holistic approach, are what gives these dreams life and these girls their wings to fly.
Fascinating . . . a woman with a dream of raising healthy and educated children . . . with hands that make bracelets or sewing machines that make clothes and bags . . . that are part of a value chain that sells nationally and internationally . . . is a woman that changes history.
Do this at scale, you change a nation very fast.
Women, girls, inclusive markets, scholarships, nutrition workshops, organic eggs and vegetables, regenerative agriculture, people from the world that buy these products, donors, investors. . . all part of this change. One woman and girl at a time.