Rural Development in Guatemala
According to the CIA, 79 percent of Guatemala’s indigenous population lives under the poverty line. Guatemala suffers high rates of malnutrition that are disproportionately experienced among indigenous, Mayan communities. One organization, Qachuu Aloom, is working to improve conditions for Mayan communities by empowering Mayan women to spearhead rural development in Guatemala.

A History of Farming in Guatemala

Ending in 1996, Guatemala’s civil war lasted for 36 years. A report by the United Nations-backed truth commission found that Guatemalan security officials committed multiple acts of genocide against the Mayan population. More than 200,000 people died during the civil war, 83 percent of which were Mayan citizens. Mayan villages and families were torn apart, and Mayan corn plots and gardens were destroyed by the Guatemalan military.

In the years following the end of the civil war, agricultural development projects carpeted the area, distributing a development model that disseminated American and European hybrid seeds. The foreign development projects introduced high-input agriculture, requiring chemicals, fertilizers and expensive hybrid seeds. These projects were rarely successful in rural villages because the farmers could not save seeds from the hybrids and were instead forced to buy new seeds after every harvest, which were they could not afford.

The introduction of modern agriculture to Guatemala brought the accelerated loss of native seeds. Farmers were no longer applying organic fertilizer but using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This practice not only damaged good soil but also translated to a loss of identity, knowledge and heritage for the Mayan people. It has also been the antagonist that has kept Mayan communities in poverty.

In 2013, stunting due to malnutrition was rampant in rural areas, with some Mayan communities experiencing rates as high as 75 percent. The life expectancy in indigenous Mayan communities is shorter than in other communities in the country by 13 years, with an infant mortality rate is more than doubled. Poverty affects indigenous Mayan women even greater. Mayan women have limited access to health facilities and proper healthcare, which explains the high rates of maternal and infant mortality. The maternal mortality rate among Mayan women is estimated to be five times the national average at 190 women out of 100,000 live births.

Qachuu Aloom in Guatemala

For the last 15 years, the organization Qachuu Aloom (The Garden’s Edge) has been working with farmers from 25 Maya Achí communities in Guatemala. Out of Qachuu Aloom’s 500 associated members, 80 percent are women. Qachuu Aloom positions women in leadership roles, making Mayan women the spearhead for rural development in Guatemala. Qachuu Aloom was established to help families rebuild their lives after decades of civil war.

More than 60 percent of the people living in the Qachuu Aloom partnered communities are rural workers and producers. Qachuu Aloom has set up networks to improve the commercialization of organic products and medicinal plants so that its members can increase their economic health. In the gardens, members produce amaranth flour, pigeon pea flour and salted squash. The products give members an alternative income stream so they can reinvest in their communities, farms and families. Qachuu Aloom also couples its development measures with the preservation of native seeds. The organization built a seed bank in the municipality of Rabinal that ensures food sovereignty, promotes ancient ancestral knowledge and contributes to food security for its members.

Mil Milagros in Guatemala

Mil Milagros, another community-led development organization, has been empowering Mayan women to be the spearheads for rural development in Guatemala. Since its inception in 2007, Mil Milagros has been equipping mothers and teachers with skills and resources to improve the lives of children and families in rural Guatemala. In regions of Guatemala where primary school completion was as low as 40 percent, Mil Milagros partner schools have raised this percentage up to 97 percent. The organization has also helped combat malnutrition. Through Early Childhood Development workshops and by providing nutritional supplements and vitamins to Mil Milagros mothers, malnutrition has decreased by half.

Development projects that enlist women as the agent of change and power are successful in rural regions because when women are given opportunities to extend their economic margins, that money gets reinvested in their children, their household, and their community. Organizations like Qachuu Aloom and Mil Milagros recognize women’s potential and work to empower Mayan women to be the spearheads for rural development in Guatemala.

Sasha Kramer
Photo: Flickr

Factors affecting Guatemala’s Life Expectancy
Guatemala, a small country located in Central America, is striving to decrease its deaths among the population and to improve its quality of life.

This is being done by focusing on health care, safety and disease prevention since these are the main causes affecting Guatemala’s life expectancy in the country.

In the text below, 10 facts about life expectancy in Guatemala are presented, and the special attention is given to problems that affect women and children in the country.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guatemala

  1. According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, life expectancy in Guatemala is 70.4 years for male and 76.0 for female. The total life expectancy is 73.2. This places Guatelama in 94th place in World Life Expectancy ranking.
  2. According to the UNICEF data, four out of 10 children under the age of 5 suffer from poor nutrition. This issue is even worse for the indigenous population since eight out of 10 children, or double more than the average, suffer from the same problem. Health-wise problems at an early age can affect growth, both cognitively and physically.
  3. The Guatemalan government has stepped in by providing more health coverage through the Extension of Coverage Program. The program teaches Guatemalan citizens about nutrition as well as preventative measures. As a result, the percentage of children under the age of 2, who had previously been undernourished, dropped by 13 percent, starting at 73 percent and ending at 60 percent.
  4. The serious problem in the country is the rate at which babies are dying. According to the World Bank, in the early 2000s, only one out of five pregnant women received proper care. This resulted in low birth weights and respiratory infections. The Extension of Coverage Program has strengthened 40 subsidiary level facilities in order to ensure safer births. The program has made it possible for mothers to get care during their pregnancy and while in labor. As a result, the death rate of pregnant women in Guatemala has fallen by almost 2 percent. In June 2006, the rate was 3.2 percent compared to 1.24 percent recorded in December 2012.
  5. Violence in Guatemala is another serious issue that affects life expectancy indirectly. Peace Women reported that 22 percent of women’s deaths are connected with organized or gang-related activities, 24 percent are related to domestic violence, and 23 percent are attributed to blackmail. Most of the sexual and physical abuse of women goes unnoticed.
  6. The Presidential Commission against Femicide established in 2009, has a goal to address the factors that are causing women to lose their lives. They have put new laws into effect that allow police to enter a home without a warrant if they fear that a woman is in danger.
  7. Another law, that was passed in 2007, has now made it a criminal offense to injure or kill a woman. The sentences run from 25 up to 50 years for homicides, and five to 12 years for physical violence or sexual assault. Guatemala’s female deaths have plummeted from 720 to 651.
  8. Gang-related crimes affect Guatemalan children as well. Girls are sexually assaulted and boys are recruited. According to UNICEF, there are about 46 children, most of them adolescents, murdered each month. While most of the deaths are caused by guns, the others are related to sexual assault, kidnapping and missing person reports, among others.
  9. The reason that gang violence is one of the causes affecting Guatemala’s women and children is that Guatemalan gangs operate on their own terms. In the Global Post, Rodriguez talks about how Guatemalan gangs are similar to L.A. gangs when they first started out. Rodriguez recalls, “In the early days of gangs in L.A., raping a woman was a good way to develop your reputation. I knew a guy who raped dozens of women.”
  10. Guatemalan authorities have arrested leaders associated with various gangs, but it does not seem to stop them. Most of the leaders just continue their operations from inside the jail, making it difficult for them to put an end to this vicious cycle.

The 10 factors about life expectancy in Guatemala for women and children can be solved through consistent use of better health care methods and stricter safety regulations.

With the help of more developed nations and various nongovernmental organization, the development in the country can be easily achieved.

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Guatemala
One of the strongest economic performers in Latin America in recent years, Guatemala’s GDP has steadily grown. However, the benefits of this economic growth have not been realized by a large portion of Guatemalan society, particularly the indigenous population. The top 10 facts about poverty in Guatemala reveal that, while it is a country with tremendous economic potential, several institutional changes must occur before the welfare of all the people in Guatemala can improve.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Guatemala

  1. Poverty affects the majority of Guatemalan citizens. In 2014, the poverty rate estimations were about 60 percent. But even more astounding than this estimate is the fact that today almost 40 percent of the population is affected by extreme poverty, meaning that they live on $1.50 or less each day.
  2. Forty percent of the population is employed in the industry. Guatemala has long depended heavily on its agricultural sector for export revenues and its overall economic stability has been correlated with the performance in this sector. Despite the importance of the sector, the majority of the seven million Guatemalans employed in the agricultural sector receive insufficient wages.
  3. Guatemala is still recovering, both economically and socially, from its civil war. The war lasted 36 years, from 1960 to 1996, instilling a deep division between the government and its opposition, the rural poor, a large portion of which were indigenous Mayans. The divisions and mistrust between the poor population and the Guatemalan government still persist.
  4. Indigenous peoples in Guatemala face disproportionate levels of poverty and human development than non-indigenous people. With 60 percent of indigenous Guatemalans living in extreme poverty, it is clear that the government must address the institutional practices contributing to their social exclusion and economic deprivation.
  5. Rural inhabitants have little access to education, due to a lack of investment from the government. Many rural areas do not have schools at all, necessitating a long and expensive commute for rural families. With the current state of poverty in Guatemala, many rural families cannot afford to send their children to school. Low levels of education have contributed to a low literacy rate of 81.5 percent.
  6. Guatemala’s tax system has historically been weak, making it difficult for the government to institute welfare programs and invest in infrastructural development. Tax evasion has long been a problem in the country with an estimated evasion rate of 34.2 percent in 2015.
  7. There is an extreme level of income disparity in Guatemala, with less than 1 percent of the population in control of half of the country’s wealth.
  8. Violence and extortion in Guatemala are rampant and largely associated with economic deprivation. In 2015, the Honduran newspaper, La Prensa, found that Guatemalans involuntarily paid $61 million to organized crime groups. These organized crime groups have reportedly infiltrated state institutions, allowing them to operate above the law. Unchecked violence and extortion have driven thousands of Guatemalans to seek asylum in the United States.
  9. In 2016, Guatemala received a $250 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) targeted toward improving tax collection and raising tax revenues. Historically, the IDB has played the role of financier and consultant for sustainable, poverty-reducing development in Latin American countries.
  10. The United States provided $297 million of aid to Guatemala in 2016. The U.S. Agency for International Development has given $9.8 million thus far in 2018 in order “to create a Guatemala in which economic opportunity exists and irregular migration is not necessary in order to find success.”

The top 10 facts about poverty in Guatemala demonstrate that by working to solve the issues of its neighbors, the United States can solve issues of its own in ways that will prove to be constructive for all parties involved.

Achievement of long-term social and economic objectives rest on the U.S. State Department’s commitment to Guatemalan aid and the Guatemalan government’s commitment to collaborate with international supporters.

Beyond this, the Guatemalan government must address the fundamental inadequacies within its current institutions that have disproportionately affected rural and indigenous people.

– Julius Long

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in GuatemalaAmidst beautiful landscapes, active volcanoes and a diverse indigenous population, Guatemala suffers from malnutrition and hunger. Many factors including climate threats, poverty, lack of education and low sanitation have contributed to this crisis overtime. With Guatemala having the highest population growth rate in Latin America, combating hunger is evermore important. The top 10 facts about hunger in Guatemala below demonstrate the need for help from the global community and the actions taken so far.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Guatemala

  1. Two-thirds of the Guatemalan population live on less than $2 per day. Due to this poverty, many cannot afford the most basic food items, causing Guatemala to have the highest rate of stunted growth in children under the age of five in Latin America and one of the highest rates in the world. Overall, the stunting rate is just under half of the young population but reaches up to 90 percent of children in certain areas.
  2. This colorful nation has the highest prevalence of chronic malnutrition in Latin America and the fourth highest in the world. In rural and indigenous areas, 55 to 69 percent of people are facing malnutrition, and in the highlands, 70 percent of children are suffering from starvation.
  3. Inequality in Guatemala is one of the worst in the world and the populations impacted by hunger vary. The World Food Programme (WFP) defines Guatemalan hunger as female, indigenous, rural and young. Although many people live on very little everyday, the indigenous population is particularly impacted with 80 percent experiencing poverty. Hunger, malnutrition, poor health and little education are some of the everyday challenges facing indigenous people.
  4. Natural disasters and climate change pose real threats to Guatemala and it is one of the ten countries most vulnerable to these threats. Recently the nation was impacted by a volcanic eruption that harmed and endangered many families. And for the past four years, Central America’s Dry Corridor has suffered from drought. This area makes up a big part of southern Guatemala and has only made hunger and subsistence farming worse.
  5. Subsistence farmers have struggled to feed their families partially due to droughts, which have made it harder for vulnerable communities to survive. Overuse of forests, poor land and soil, no access to credit, small plots, and a lack of agricultural tools have all caused agricultural production and profits to drop.
  6. Poverty and hunger impact families living in the Dry Corridor especially hard. These families have experienced so much loss and debt due to droughts and experts predict that they will suffer from food insecurity throughout the year. In other parts of Guatemala, agricultural production was sufficient enough to decrease prices and increase access to food showing once again the contrasts and inequality within this country.
  7. One of the factors contributing to stunting and hunger in children is the age at which females are having children in Guatemala. Most child rearing starts during adolescence and nearly 40 percent of girls have given birth by the time they are 19. With young girls facing malnutrition more than older women, their babies will be malnurished, weigh less and be stunted.
  8. Guatemala’s government is trying to fight hunger and has taken action to prevent malnutrition. The government implemented a plan to increase the yearly budget for nutrition and food by 2.5 percent and wants to improve the current system fighting hunger. It also started a program with a goal of decreasing the stunting rate by ten percent by 2020. It will do so by improving primary health care, water, sanitation and access to food.
  9. USAID has also taken action to end hunger in Guatemala. Food for Peace provides support to the WFP and other nonprofits trying to end hunger in the Dry Corridor. The program also supplies food vouchers and cash-for-training programs to help vulnerable families purchase food.
  10. The WFP is ending hunger in Guatemala in several different ways. This program works with the government to supply nutritious food to infants and promotes behavioral change. It is also assisting the government with institutions that help with food security and emergency situations. Similar to USAID, the WFP supports cash-for-training programs to allow families to buy food. It also supports small farms and provides humanitarian assistance during disasters.

Guatemala still suffers from hunger today but hopefully an increased awareness of the top 10 facts about hunger in Guatemala combined with efforts from multiple governments and organizations will see great results in the years to come.

– Alexandra Eppenauer

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in GuatemalaGuatemala is a tourist destination well-known for being the center of the ancient Mayan civilization. What many people may not realize about this small, Central American country, however, is that from 1960 to 1996, Guatemala struggled with a 36-year civil war that has left the country in a problematic state in regards to human rights. Although there have been several improvements to human rights in Guatemala, there is still work to be done. Below are 10 important facts about human rights in Guatemala.

10 Facts About Human Rights in Guatemala

  1. The Guatemalan Civil War was the aftermath of the CIA’s involvement in overthrowing democratically-elected President Jacobo Árbenz in 1945. Private interests of the United States were at a disadvantage from policies and reforms put in place by Árbenz that would have largely benefitted the indigenous population in poverty. After the coup d’état, the new leader, right-wing Army General Efraín Ríos Montt, came into power.
  2. Tensions between the right and left had escalated until 1960 when a civil war erupted between the military and leftist guerrilla groups. Eventually, however, the military began targeting anyone deemed as sympathizers to the rebels’ cause, including Catholic priests and entire native villages. By the time the war ended with a treaty in 1996, over 200,000 people were killed, more than half a million were left displaced and several others had been raped and tortured.
  3. Out of the 200,000 killed during the war, a majority of casualties were indigenous people. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHA), extreme poverty rates are three times higher among the indigenous population. During the civil war, the extremely poor were targeted by military groups, and some indigenous groups had fallen victim to genocidal acts. In 1982 and 1983, 1,771 Mayan Ixil civilians were murdered in over 105 massacres throughout the country. Although the civil war is over, poverty, exclusion and violence still persist at higher rates against Guatemala’s indigenous population.
  4. Heinous human rights violations may have subsided since the end of the civil war, but the problem of accountability and sentencing for human rights abuses still persists. Over twenty years after the end of the war, several former military officers have finally been indicted for their crimes, but they are still awaiting trial dates and formal sentencing for human rights violations such as rape, massacre and genocide like that of the Ixil civilians, including Rios Montt.
  5. In light of the issue of slow trials, the IACHA also recognizes the importance of a currently pending judicial reform. This reform addresses the organization of the work of The Supreme Court of Justice, as well as the processes for judicial appointments. This reform is highly favorable throughout Guatemala but has yet to be officially approved.
  6. The Guatemalan government has been working with human rights investigators to uncover incriminating evidence that has been scattered or hidden in over 80 million pages of documents. The nonprofit Benetech has been helping to organize and digitalize all documents that contain evidence against those accused of human rights violations. Benetech suspects that, during the war, police had participated in disappearances and assassinations, leading to even more document cover-ups.
  7. The U.N.-backed International Community Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, has also played a key role in prosecuting violent crimes and human rights abuses in the country. CICIG has worked with Attorney Generals, police and other government sectors “to investigate, prosecute and dismantle criminal organizations operating in the country.” The organization has made efforts to decrease violent crimes and extortion from gang-related violence and has acted as a key investigator in many high-profile assassinations in the country.
  8. Journalists have been some of the biggest targets of violence with several TV and newspaper journalists having been assassinated in recent years and many more have been victims of assassination attempts and death threats. The IACHR notes that the interior of the country is the most dangerous place for journalists and social communicators due to their overt commitment to combating corruption and abuses of power.
  9. Women’s and girls’ rights in Guatemala are also a human rights issue that has more notably come to light after the March 2017 fire that occurred in a government-run shelter killing 41 young girls. A room, only meant to hold 11, contained 56 girls locked in for the night without access to water or restrooms because they had been protesting sexual violence and poor living conditions within the facility. While court proceedings have begun against the officers who failed to release the girls during the fire, this tragedy brought to light the poor conditions for adolescents and women in Guatemala.
  10. In 2017, the US Congress approved $655 million in assistance as part of The Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, which intends to reduce incentives for those who want to emigrate from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This aid seeks to reduce violence, increase economic opportunities and strengthen governance, actively fighting corruption and impunity in the community.

These facts about human rights in Guatemala show that things have improved since the genocidal times of civil war, but many issues persist. The rights of indigenous people, journalists and minorities need more attention from the government. While Guatemala seeks justice for its past crimes with the aid of organizations like CICIG and Benetech, current human rights issues lack effective attention. With an improvement in economic opportunity and governance along with a decrease in impunity and corruption, Guatemala could significantly improve its human rights situation and experience a greater decrease in poverty and violent crimes.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Guatemala
Chase Mangrum, a rising senior at Harding University majoring in Exercise Science and minoring in Medical Missions, recently spent six weeks in Guatemala in May and June as part of Health Talents International’s Medical Evangelism Training. She covered some ground during her trip, traveling to four different spots in total, and accomplishing a wide array of activities, such as taking Spanish language classes, living with multiple host families and working in local medical and dental clinics along the way. Mangrum came back equipped to share observations in an interview with The Borgen Project that underscore eight major facts about poverty in Guatemala.

8 Facts About Poverty in Guatemala

  1. Wealth distribution is unbalanced. Mangrum observes that bigger cities like Guatemala City, Antigua and Xela are modern and prosperous, but the villages she visited like Chicacao, Suchitepéquez along the coast and Chichicastenango, El Quiche in the highlands, were poorer. However, she also admits that the differences between wealth in towns and villages is not completely straightforward, explaining, “People who live in the smaller towns may seem to have more than those out in the villages, but they don’t own any land so most times they are still what you would consider impoverished.” Statistics corroborate Mangrum’s experiences. The vast majority of the population does live in poverty. Though those in the big cities are relatively better off, still 75 percent of the population lives in poverty and 58 percent in extreme poverty.
  2. The indigenous, non-Spanish-speaking population has limited access to education and opportunities. She noticed stark differences between Chicacao, where the majority of inhabitants are descended from Spanish colonists and speak Spanish, and Chichicastenango, where the predominant language is a Mayan dialect called Quiche. Again, statistics back up Mangrum’s observations. More than 90 percent of the indigenous population survives on an income below the poverty line, a higher percentage than the average for Guatemala.
  3. Water systems and waste management remain undeveloped and unhygienic in many parts of Guatemala. Mangrum shares: “The homes I stayed in had a water source but it was not pure; [w]e had to filter our water to drink. Some places have flushing toilets and showers, but there are many places that are latrine only and people take bucket showers.” Many of the country’s water systems are considered to be in partial or complete failure by Water for People. However, hope exists as 93 percent of Guatemalans have access to improved water, and the rural population only lags a little behind, with 87 percent access.
  4. Many depend on farming inherited land as their sole source of income, contributing to cyclical poverty in Guatemala. As 65 percent of the land is controlled by 2.5 percent of farms, land is passed down through families and most consider farming one of their only options. Do to perceived limited opportunities, many Guatemalans whose parents lived in poverty remain trapped in poverty.
  5. Guatemalans often depend on informal jobs for their income. The United Nations estimates that 70 percent of Guatemalans are employed informally, meaning they do not receive any kinds of benefits that come from a formal contract and employer.
  6. Inexpensive diets of rice and tortillas resulting from poverty in Guatemala make diabetes a prevalent issue. Mangrum believes Type 2 diabetes is the most prominent health issue she encountered in Guatemala. She related this to the corn tortillas that were a cheap diet staple for many of her host families. At seven and a half percent, the diabetes rate in Guatemala is not beyond help, but 47.7 percent of the population is overweight, 16.4 percent of the population is obese and 12.4 percent of the population is considered physically inactive. All of these risk factors make potential growth rates of diabetes a concern.
  7. Fatalistic views from generations of poverty in Guatemala have caused rampant dental hygiene problems. Tooth decay is one of the main issues seen by dentists in Guatemala, attributed to lack of personal knowledge and prioritization of dental hygiene, fluoride lack and unhealthy diets. Mangrum explains this worldview she encountered as a hopeless belief that because one’s parents had bad teeth, no amount of prevention can keep the next generation from having bad teeth as well. This meant that most of the patients Mangrum saw during her time in local dental offices came to have their teeth extracted rather than having preventive check-ups. Mangrum sees a lot of hope for addressing poverty in Guatemala through medical missions. She says, “In societies like Guatemala where there [are] still traditional healing practices that influence health care, it is crucial to address the patient’s spiritual health. Many times they believe they are sick due to an unbalance in their body and spirit or that something in their life like sin is affecting their health.”
  8. Poverty in Guatemala cyclically continues because many Guatemalans cannot afford education past elementary school. Most Guatemalan children must help provide for their families, making secondary education a luxury few can afford. Enrollment in primary school is very successful, nearly 100 percent, but more than two million Guatemalans from ages 15-24 do not meet the criteria to enter the workforce. Therefore, they remain on those family farms, excluded from the economy by the farming elite, or they join the informal workforce, and therefore in poverty.

Ways to Get Involved

Thanks to Mangram’s on-the-ground perspective, one can see the validity of these top eight facts about poverty in Guatemala. With such an eye-opening view, many may ask what can be done to aid in some of these issues; one of the best methods is emblematized by Magnum — go offer assistance directly in the country itself through established aid organizations.

Other options are more remote in nature — contacting representatives in favor of foreign aid legislation, donating to sustainable outreach and development programs, sponsoring local businesspeople — but no matter the route, aid to Guatemala can be as effective and eye-opening as in Mangram’s journey.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

Mayan Oppression in GuatemalaAccording to the Irish political party Eirigie, “All imperialism is underpinned by a philosophy that deems the colonized in some way inferior to the colonizer. Racism, discrimination, and exploitation are intrinsically linked to a policy which justifies the right of one people to dominate and exploit another.” 

A Violent History

Centuries ago, Guatemala was the central hub of the ancient Mayan kingdom. The year 1524 then brought Spaniards, conquest and dictatorship. Central America’s longest armed conflict between government and rebels occurred from 1960 to 1996, Guatemala’s thirty-six-year civil war.

This tyrannical outburst, backed by the American government, revealed dangerous issues of political and military strategy between government and leftist rebels and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, the majority of which were innocent civilians and indigenous Mayans. The gateway to Mayan oppression in Guatemala had been opened.

Spanish occupation severed existing Mayan socioeconomic order and gave life to ethnic turmoil and exclusion. Indigenous Maya viewed the leftist guerrilla warfare as the last hope for restoring the deep-seeded marginalization of indigenous communities. To the government, however, the collaboration and relationship between the Maya and the guerrilla movement insinuated the Maya to be natural allies of the revolution, and thus enemies of the state.

Inequality in Employment

A decades-old historical reality, the Mayan population – 80 percent of the country’s makeup – has endured harsh oppression. It is a rarity within the employment sector for the indigenous person to be paid the equal wage of the mestizos, a person of mixed ancestry. When interviewed, more than half of business owners admitted that despite indigenous workers and mestizo workers performing the same labor, they were not paid equal wages.

An IPS News Agency survey, conducted among hundreds of business owners in greater Guatemala City, found that “on average, only 12 percent of workers in small and micro-enterprises are indigenous people, while the workforce of medium and large businesses is made up of 20 percent native people.” Meager wages alongside oppression allow poverty to burgeon.

Avivara Empowers Guatemalans

Without equality, development halts. An organization named Avivara uses education as a way to provide relief for the oppressed in Guatemala, a country that has endured myriad human rights offenses. Access to quality education allows citizens to learn how to adapt to change and ultimately secure higher-paying jobs.

Better education provides access to resources, services, social protection and social rights. In regards to women and Mayan culture, education is empowering. It helps to expunge systemic poverty, illiteracy and inequality. By providing greater educational opportunities, Avivara is establishing a foundation within communities that will provide essential skills, such as the ability to address conflicts in a rational and non-violent manner.

The Work of CoEd and Other Organizations

Around 70 percent of people in rural Guatemala live in poverty. 95 percent of poor, rural students never graduate from high school. 40 percent of indigenous adults cannot read or write. The Cooperative for Education, or CoEd, provides solutions. CoEd helps break the deep-seeded cycle of poverty through the most powerful resource: education, a pathway out of poverty. Educational opportunities are provided for schoolchildren at every step of the way, empowering them to someday give the same opportunities back to the world. Education is the one-way ticket out of Mayan oppression in Guatemala.

Moreover, the Pan-Mayan Mobilization in Guatemala prompted the internationally-recognized Peace Accords of 1996. In an effort to unite the indigenous population and acquire more political influence, the Accords include both general Human Rights clauses as well as those on the identity and rights of indigenous peoples.

Efforts to heal the horrendous wounds of Mayan oppression in Guatemala are strong but take time. To assist the process, the Office for Indigenous Peoples and Interculturality has been created. The United Nations reports that this review board establishes proposals for both human rights defenses and policy reform, based on the Agreement on the Identity and Rights of the Indigenous Peoples from the 1996 Peace Accords. Emerging from a place of oppression and fear to a place of equality and peace is complex and multifaceted, but change is in the works.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Flickr

Northern Triangle
On June 14, 2017, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) arranged $2.5 billion in infrastructure projects for the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. IDB invested $750 million, plus additional funding for another $1.75 billion from public and private sectors within the Northern Triangle. One year later, with levels of violence and regional emigration still growing, it begs the question, what is the U.S. doing to help?

U.S. Aid To The Northern Triangle

This funding was proposed to compliment the Plan of the Alliance for the Prosperity of the Northern Triangle, which has made progress in addressing security issues and strengthening local institutions.

The initiative intends to improve the region’s infrastructure and, above all else, to slow the path of northern migration by providing economic opportunities in the region. However, it is estimated that the Alliance For Prosperity, in place since 2014, directs 60 percent of the budget towards security measures.

With the additional $2.5 billion in regional and IDB backing, far more development progress should be achieved. IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno stated in 2017 that “the key over the next five years will be to tap the private sector to help build critical infrastructure that will generate jobs, improve competitiveness, and create the conditions that encourage people to build prosperous lives in their homelands.” Only one year into a five year plan, numerous of the project’s goals need time to produce results.

Northern Triangle Migration

In 2017, 54 percent of migrants detained at the border arrived from the Northern Triangle, in comparison to only 13 percent back in 2010. The Brookings institute reports that migration to countries like the U.S. has much to do with unprecedented levels of violence, including kidnapping, sex crimes and extortion in home countries.

Former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, suggested that United States’ demand for drugs is what drives “violence” and “lawlessness” in the Northern Triangle nations. The majority of those arriving in the U.S. are not a part of the violent gang crime themselves, but rather are fleeing this crime seeking asylum and safety.

Regional Efforts

Surges of gang violence coupled by weak institutional support, corruption and a general lack of economic opportunity have undermined regional efforts to address the crisis. With 95 percent of crimes going unpunished, refugees have little choice but to flee. Eric Olsen at the Wilson Center argues, “There has been so much penetration of the state and so much criminal involvement in security forces, it makes it difficult to think about how they would [reform] without some outside intervention.”

It’s understandable that so much funding is needed to address organized crime, but this allocation leaves the Northern Triangle to struggle with a multitude of other concerns. IDB’s development pledge in coordination with the existing Alliance for Prosperity projects addressing security is a great step towards addressing the larger institutional infrastructure problems of the Northern Triangle.

U.S. Response and the Alliance for Prosperity

In recent years, the U.S. has responded in various ways to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. allocated hundreds of millions to the Northern Triangle and focused on increasing growth, trade and stability. President Barack Obama established the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) that provided over $1 billion to help law enforcement, counternarcotics and justice systems in the region.

This initiative was designed to coincide with the Alliance for Prosperity to promote commerce and security. Under President Donald J. Trump, Alliance for Prosperity has continued, but his administration has established a much harsher line on immigration policies affecting Northern Triangle refugees.

After one year, the anticipated effects of IDB’s pledge have yet to be realized. Recent media coverage of separated migrant families has raised more awareness of the realities faced in the Northern Triangle, and presents a new opportunity to direct new projects to restore the prosperity of these three nations.

With Central Americans still dealing with forced emigration, it is clear additional measures must be taken by the U.S. government to prevent atrocities in the Northern Triangle and that the congressional IDB pledge is just one step of many needed in the right direction.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

help GuatemalaCurrently, in Guatemala, 200 people are missing, 110 people are deceased and more than 1.7 million people have been impacted by the eruption of the Fuego volcano that began on June 3. It was the nation’s most severe volcanic eruption in 45 years and the size of this disaster has compelled many around the world to act.

Images of the volcano’s victims and its devastating impact are easily accessible on social media, as are advocacy and volunteer opportunities. Keep reading for a few examples of how to help Guatemala’s Fuego victims and bring awareness to the crisis.

Advocacy on Social Media

Social media has made advocacy from home possible and is one of the easiest ways to get involved in a cause. Several hashtags have popped up on social media platforms since the eruption began as a way to raise awareness along with fundraising and donation opportunities. With a simple search on Instagram or Twitter for any of the hashtags mentioned below, users can see pictures and updates on life in Guatemala after the volcano.

Examples of popular hashtags include:

  • #PrayForGuatemala
  • #GuatemalaEstoyContigo
  • #TodosPorGuate
  • #VolcanDeFuego
  • #FuerzaGuatemala

Finding Volunteers on Facebook

Another social media site that has offered ways to help Guatemala is Facebook. Beyond matching donations, the Crisis Response page on Facebook for the volcanic eruption has become a way for locals to find and give help. Facebook users can post to the page and list what they are offering or need, their location and how to get in contact with them.

Scrolling through the page shows people offering food, shelter or supplies, requesting help and asking for volunteers in specific locations. What is even more impressive is the number of posts that have already been completed or closed. This is yet another example of a relatively easy and effective way to help victims of Fuego’s eruption.

Red Cross Volunteers Working Hard

The Red Cross, led by the CruzRojaGT or Guatemalan arm of the organization, has been working tirelessly to provide rescue operations and support to Guatemalans. This organization has no intention of leaving soon and is putting long-term plans into place in order to keep helping survivors of this crisis.

The organization administered an emergency appeal to maintain programs in Guatemala to support 6,000 vulnerable people for at least a year. More than two weeks after the initial eruption, there are still 1,600 volunteers helping families evacuated during the eruption.

The American Red Cross is offering help as well, with programs set up to help people find loved ones they may have lost contact with in Guatemala. Beyond donating to the cause, sharing this information and keeping up to date on the current conditions are great ways to get involved with the Red Cross efforts.

Donations Flow In to Help Guatemala

In horrible times of crisis, sometimes the only positives are outpourings of support from the global community. There are many organizations and nonprofits accepting donations to provide help to burn victims, shelters, supplies and future rebuilding. GoFundMe set up a page with verified campaigns aiming to raise money to help Guatemala. Many of these funds were started by Guatemalans or people with ties to the country and some have already raised over $100,000.

This is partially made possible by the thousands of social media users who have used hashtags and posts to bring awareness to these causes and the ongoing impacts of the eruption. After the dust settles in Guatemala, it is important to keep sharing and being advocates for the millions of people impacted by Fuego’s eruption and to bring awareness to this crisis.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Guatemala
Attending school in Guatemala presents many challenges. In a country where poverty and inequality are prevalent, indigenous females are the most disadvantaged and vulnerable group. With little protection of the rights of adolescent girls, many girls and women do not attend school and are forced into child labor. More than two million children in Guatemala are not attending school; the majority of these are indigenous girls living in rural areas.

Barriers to Education in Guatemala Affect Girls Most

The prevalence of child labor is higher in Guatemala than anywhere else in Latin America. With more than half the population living below the poverty line, many children can not afford the cost of school. Dropout rates for girls are high. According to the Cooperative for Education, a nonprofit organization providing educational resources and opportunities to indigenous Mayan schoolchildren, an indigenous Guatemalan woman stays in school for an average of 1.8 years. They often leave school early to help support their family, take care of siblings or get married.

Furthermore, more than half of the Guatemalan population is indigenous and less than 30 percent of poor, rural indigenous girls are enrolled in secondary education. By age 17, only 26 percent of indigenous girls are still enrolled in school.

Even for those who are able to attend school, particularly in rural schools and in indigenous communities, they find that they are poorly funded and do not have adequate books, curriculum guides, literacy materials and exam prep guides. Nine out of 10 schools in rural Guatemala lack books. Another problem, especially in rural areas, is a lack of proper training for teachers. This stems from the challenges of recruiting and retaining quality teachers in rural schools.

USAID Partners with Guatemalan Ministry of Education

Despite these challenges, there are actions being taken by organizations to improve the quality of education. USAID works in partnership with the government of Guatemala to improve primary level reading skills and provide educational opportunities for out-of-school youth. These efforts have resulted in improvements to the education system in many ways, as the Ministry of Education has now developed strong K-9 national education standards.

USAID has also implemented an innovative assessment system for entry-level teachers using standardized testing in Spanish and nine Mayan languages to hire and place teachers. It was also through USAID support that the ministry improved its transparency and efficiency of its processes, which led to it receiving an international certification of its management system. The ministry is the first public institution to meet this standard.

Girl Up Gives Special Focus to Girls’ Education in Guatemala

The need for investment in girls’ education in Guatemala is crucial. Education can help fight the disadvantages indigenous girls in Guatemala face, such as limited schooling, early marriage, frequent childbearing and chronic poverty. Work supporting girls’ education in Guatemala is progressing. Girl Up supports adolescent girls in Guatemala by funding a United Nations joint program which delivers an integrated and comprehensive package of services in partnership with national partners and local implementing organizations. The programs address complex challenges which limit indigenous girls’ opportunities for success.

Girl Up has four strategic goals, including:

  • Providing an increase in social investments for adolescent girls
  • Increasing the legal age of marriage to 18
  • Reducing teenage pregnancy, sexual violence and trafficking
  • Supporting civil efforts that demand comprehensive sex education

It also works to strengthen government support and capacity with a specific focus on indigenous girls in rural areas with Guatemala’s Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Statistics to support adolescent girls from around the country.

Building partnerships with local organizations is also a focus of Girl Up. Through this, it has implemented activities that have strengthened the social skills of hundreds of adolescent girls from rural communities. Girl Up supports U.N. programs in two of the most excluded and vulnerable regions of Guatemala, Totonicapán and Huehuetenango. This support has included providing educational materials in indigenous languages to make learning easier and giving girls forced to drop out of school a second chance.

Through these investments in girls’ education in Guatemala, lives will be changed. Girls will have the ability to achieve their goals, improve their futures and change their communities.

– Ashley Quigley
Photo: Flickr