How MUIXIL is Empowering Indigenous Guatemalan WomenAs the 1960 Guatemalan Civil War continued, military dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt targeted the indigenous populations of the country as part of his counterinsurgency tactics from March 1982 to August 1983. His “scorched earth” policy led to the brutalizing of Indigenous Mayans, specifically those in the Ixil region. As few as 10% of Ixil villages remained by the end of 1983, and over 5% of the Ixil population was killed. The effects of the civil war and the genocide continue to be felt by the Ixil people—especially women, which is why MUIXIL works to empower Indigenous Guatemalan women.

The Effects of the War on Ixil Women

The Ixil region of Guatemala was specifically targeted during the civil war because of the indigenous population. As a result of the destruction of their villages, 29,000 Ixil people are estimated to have been displaced by the war. This displacement and destruction caused many Ixil people to lose their birth certificates and other forms of identification that are necessary for political participation in the post-war country, making it nearly impossible for many to vote in elections and creating widespread indigenous disenfranchisement.

The mass murders of Ixil people during the war widowed many women, making them solely responsible for providing for their families. This struggle was significantly more difficult for Indigenous women in Guatemala as they were often denied access to jobs and resources that could benefit them financially. Widespread poverty, malnutrition and the highest infant mortality rate in Central America at 23 deaths per 1,000 births are associated with the financial troubles of Ixil people.

Guatemala has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world, and in a two-year period ending in 2016, more than 2,000 women were murdered. Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by violence against women, which many researchers say is a result of the widespread violence against them and the lack of punishment for sexual and gender-based violence that occurred during the war.

The History of MUIXIL

MUIXIL was founded as Mujeres Sufridas de Area Ixil (Women Sufferers of Ixil) in 2003 to empower and support indigenous Ixil women, especially those who survived the civil war. The grassroots organization aims to promote the civil, political and economic rights of Indigenous Guatemalan women through the development of income-generating projects and a support system made up of other Ixil women.

The MUIXIL Weaving-Collective

MUIXIL partnered with MADRE, an international women’s empowerment nonprofit, to develop a weaving-collective for Ixil women. The project provides grants for women to purchase materials, such as yarn, that are needed to create products that can be sold at local markets. By selling their creations, these women earn additional income and learn entrepreneurial skills. The weaving-collective also preserve a culture that was nearly destroyed by the war as the women incorporate traditional designs into their creations. As of 2012, 45 women participate in the weaving-collective.

Also in partnership with MADRE, MUIXIL runs a sustainable chicken farming initiative. Indigenous women are given chickens to establish small-scale farms and grants to purchase the supplies needed for upkeep. At the end of 2010, 350 women participated in this project, supporting nearly 2,500 individuals. The initiative was later expanded in 2013 to three more communities with 50 additional women participating.

Like the weaving collective, the chicken farms provide Ixil women with income as they sell eggs at local markets. The chicken farming initiative also combats food insecurity in Indigenous communities as it provides access to protein-rich chickens and eggs.

Political Empowerment for Indigenous Guatemalan Women

MUIXIL also hosts workshops to show Ixil women the importance of and teach the skills needed for political participation at the local and national levels. The nonprofit organization also assists Indigenous women with the legal system, “including in trials to hold perpetrators accountable for human rights abuses against Indigenous Peoples.” Women seeking the recognition of their human rights by the government are accompanied by MUIXIL’s members for support.

During the 2012 session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, MUIXIL advocated for the political rights of Indigenous women in Guatemala in the Report on Violations of Women’s Human Rights. In this report, the organization called out the national government for failing its constitutional duty to protect women and indigenous peoples by excluding them from the legal system. This exclusion takes on many forms, such as a lack of access to translators who are fluent in Indigenous languages, which effectively prevents many women from seeking justice. MUIXIL also provided recommendations in this report for how the government can better protect the rights of Indigenous women, including decreasing costs within the legal system, making courts more accessible by spreading them throughout the country and launching a program to document Indigenous peoples who were displaced or lost their forms of identification during the war to allow for more widespread political participation.

The Guatemalan Civil War witnessed genocide against the country’s Indigenous Ixil populations, leading to long-term consequences for these communities, especially women. MUIXIL combats the legacy of violence and discrimination against Ixil women by providing income-earning initiatives, political empowerment and a space where Indigenous Guatemalan women can find support and continue their cultural traditions.

—Sydney Leiter
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in GuatemalaIn Guatemala, over 50% of the population live below the poverty line. Families of four or more live in small one or two-room huts if they have shelter at all. On average every four days a child, usually a newborn, is abandoned because families do not have or can not access the means to take care of another child. Homelessness in Guatemala harshly impacts children, families and indigenous women.

Street Children

Young children are considered lucky if they are not part of the large homeless population. Among the homeless population, 7,000 of them are children and adolescents left to survive on their own. Many of them turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, perpetuating the cycle of homelessness in Guatemala. Violence directed towards street children is not uncommon. The Guatemalan police force’s deathly violence towards these children had remained unchecked until the early 2000s but the threat of physical harm has not been abolished to this day.

Homelessness in Guatemala is a ripple that ends at the children of the impoverished. For example, they are needed for work and are often unable to go to school, if they can afford public schooling to begin with. The little income they make does not stretch far. A quarter of the population of children are actively involved in child labor out of necessity. In addition, one in four children under the age of fifteen are illiterate. Chronic malnutrition and hunger are a consistent part of life. Without access to proper education or nutrition children of the impoverished do not have the ability to move forward. As a result, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty and homelessness in Guatemala.

Inadequate Housing Plagues Families

Traditionally, Guatemalan culture revolves around family. It is a tight-knit community that is hindered by the lack of funds, nutritional food and educational opportunities. Those who are fortunate enough to have shelter are stuffed into small huts with a tin roof and dirt floors. Children, parents and grandparents often live together without running water or electricity. Diseases plague newborns and small children due to people’s inability to keep housing sanitary, leading to high infant death rates. Medical care is all but nonexistent.

Cooking is done over an open fire kept inside the home. This leaves the women and children of the families to breathe in smoke for hours at a time with no ventilation. Some houses are made from straw or wood both of which are extremely flammable and pose another risk to families inside. Respiratory illness affects a large portion of the poor population. Since most houses are one room, the idling soot from cooking fires becomes toxic for the entire family. Without running water, there is no way to properly clean the soot and without electricity, there is no other option for families to cook food.

The Plight of the Indigenous Woman

Half of the country is homeless and of that population, half of those people are indigenous women. Impoverished indigenous women not only suffer the fallout of poverty, they face racism and violence because of their sex. Compared to the rest of the country, including Guatemalan women, indigenous women have a higher chance at having multiple unplanned children, living in poverty and being illiterate. In addition, the birth mortality rate for women of native heritage is double and non-indigenous women have a greater life expectancy by an average of 13 years. They are malnourished and underpaid. The inequality trickles down to their children who face food insecurity, lack of education and if they are young girls the same fear of violence and racism their mothers endure.

Taking Action

Homelessness in Guatemala engulfs half of the 15 million people living in the country. Basic human necessities are not available and haven’t been for generations. The Guatemala Housing Alliance focuses on providing proper shelter to families. They work in tandem with other groups aiming to help education, food insecurity and sexual education for the poor of Guatemala.

The Guatemala Housing Alliance has built 47 homes with wood-receiving stoves that eliminate the danger of open fire cooking. They’ve put flooring in 138 homes that had been previously made of dirt. Also, the foundation offers counseling for young children and has hosted workshops for women for them to speak openly and learn about sanitation, nutrition and their legal rights.

For more information visit their website. 

Amanda Rogers
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in Guatemala
Guatemala, with an ever-growing population of almost 18 million, is the most populous country in all of Central America. After 36 years of civil war, the country struggles to rebuild and combat poverty. Poverty is a prevalent and persistent issue in the land of the Maya. Unfortunately, Guatemala ranks in the top 50 poorest countries in the world with 56% of the population living below the poverty line. By and large, this disproportionately affects Guatemalan children, and specifically native children of the Maya, Garifuna and Xinca. Combined, these Native groups comprise over half of the entire population. Thus, aboriginal kids are the primary victims of extreme Guatemalan child poverty. Furthermore, it is important to understand what contributes to this cycle of child poverty in Guatemala, its effects and what the global community is doing to eradicate it.

Facts About Guatemalan Child Poverty

The consequences of child poverty in Guatemala are heavy. The cycle of poverty begins when a child is born and statistically follows them into adulthood. These facts demonstrate the effects of child poverty in Guatemala:

  • About 28% of Guatemalan children do not attend school and must work to help contribute to their family’s income. As a result, Guatemala has one of the highest child labor rates in the Americas.
  • Due to such scarcity in resources and money, almost one-half of young Guatemalan children are continuously undernourished.
  • Girls are especially vulnerable to the cycle of poverty due to their familial situations. This stems from child marriage and the overwhelming growth of families. Thus, the larger the family, the harder the struggle to stay above the poverty line.

With these facts in mind, it is important to note that many global forces are working to end Guatemalan child poverty and impoverishment as a whole in the country.

How to Help End Guatemalan Child Poverty

There are many ways to end child poverty in Guatemala. One of these is education. In fact, a study by the World Bank stated that “education plays a crucial role in combatting chronic poverty and preventing transmission of deprivation between generations.” Intervening in education is not only a vital need for individual children but also for their families and society at large. A leader in the fight against child poverty in Guatemala is Save the Children.

Save the Children

Since 1999, Save the Children has been a leading charity organization in Guatemala. The organization works to aid poor, indigenous families living in rural areas of the country by providing education, protection and peace-building programs.

The organization’s Literacy, Education and Nutrition for Sustainability (LENS) program provides the following:

  • Encourages and strengthens reading skills
  • Promotes healthy behaviors and best practices
  • Provides well-balanced school food programs
  • Improves school facilities
  • Focuses and educates communities on water and sanitation techniques
  • Teaches the skills necessary for livestock management and production

With the help of donations, volunteers and spreading awareness, Save the Children provides the necessary education and skills to help kids sustain a liveable income. In turn, results show that proper schooling enables access to better employment and higher wages.

Overall, the country has felt the organization’s impact. The nonprofit’s work to give Guatemalan children the opportunity to have a successful life through education, protection and overall aid has shown great progress. Save the Children has provided safety for 9,000 kids and helped more than 30,000 children in crisis. It has also provided help to overcome poverty for more than 65,000 kids.

By and large, the fight to end child poverty in Guatemala continues to progress. There are many avenues in which one can involve themself and help make a difference. One kind of act such as a donation can change the lives of many.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Covid-19 in Central America
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have left no region of the world unscathed. Central America and Mexico have certainly felt the wrath of this virus. Recent outbreaks in the region threaten to compound upon other humanitarian struggles. The U.S. has recognized this challenge and taken action to provide aid, despite facing its own issues fighting the coronavirus — the difficulties of COVID-19 in Central America and Mexico are vast.

An Issue in Central America & Mexico Before COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a health and economic challenge to Central America and Mexico. Yet, before the pandemic, the region was already suffering from poverty. As such, the pandemic has hit this area particularly hard. Our World in Data projected that the extreme poverty rate was about 8.12% in Guatemala, 14.24% in Honduras, 2.79% in El Salvador and 1.96% in Mexico in 2019. The full economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known.

Apart from facing extreme poverty — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico also suffer from high crime rates. In 2017, Guatemala had an intentional homicide rate of about 26.1 per 100,000, Honduras had 41.7, El Salvador had 61.8 and Mexico had 24.8.

Providing sustainable assistance to Central America is particularly important for the national security in the U.S. As of July 2019, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition explained that there is a correlation between children seeking refuge in the U.S. and murders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Aid to these three countries could reduce poverty and crime. Consequently, the number of people searching for safety in the U.S. may potentially decrease.

The US Steps Up

The U.S. has committed to providing more than $22 million for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The aid focuses on key areas of need. For example, the U.S. committed $850,000 in Migration and Refugee Assistance funding in Mexico. This includes funding for the dissemination of hygiene products and assistance creating a remote program to register asylum seekers and hold interviews.

The U.S. also committed to providing almost $6.6 million in aid to El Salvador, more than $8.4 million to Guatemala and more than $5.4 million to Honduras. Notably, these aid packages contain International Disaster Assistance for each country. The assistance also focuses on immediate and long-term health needs.

In recent months, the U.S. has also provided other forms of support to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Notable aid includes investments in critical infrastructures, such as energy programs. This is an important step in reducing poverty in the region. However, continued aid and investment are necessary to fight COVID-19 in Central America, save lives, reduce poverty and protect U.S. national security.

Global Help

This aid is a substantial sum targeted in areas that most need money to help fight COVID-19. However, there is more than the U.S. could do to protect global health. Global health spending has remained mostly constant for the past 10 years. Now, the future of U.S. global health aid is at-risk. The federal government’s spending on global health could reduce to its lowest point in 13 years if the proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year receives approval. This could exacerbate outbreaks of other diseases that the U.S. has historically fought against. Without aid from the U.S., other nations such as China will have to step in as a global leader during this crisis.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay

Education in Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Latin America with one of the highest illiteracy rates. Furthermore, 79% of indigenous Guatemalans live in poverty. Education in Guatemala lacks government funding and has further limitations, especially in rural areas. Educators face inadequate or non-existent supplies, no training and no desks or tables in more rural areas. With remote learning emerging worldwide during the pandemic, many students in Guatemala lost their access to education due to missing technological equipment. Gerardo Ixcoy, a 27-year-old teacher in the small farming community of Santa Cruz de Quiche, is bringing the classroom to his students to ensure they keep learning.

Guatemalan Students Face More Than COVID-19

Unlike most western countries, only the first six years of school are free in Guatemala. Junior high and high schools require entrance fees, uniforms and supplies. Since 75% of the population lives below the poverty line, only around one-third of students continue with secondary education. Many families struggle to regularly put food on the table, making education in Guatemala a luxury rather than a necessity. Only a mere 10% attend high school.

Children who cannot afford schooling often end up working for a low wage and cannot pursue higher education even as adults. Illiteracy is common, with rates of up to 25% in adults and young adults over 15. Indigenous children thereby face the most problems. Language barriers and lack of schools physically existing near their rural communities have failed to integrate Guatemala’s indigenous children into the school system.

A Hero on Three Wheels

As shutdowns across the world spread due to COVID-19, Guatemala is no exception. When schools closed in the middle of March 2020, Gerardo Ixcoy purchased a used adult tricycle with his savings. At first, Ixcoy attempted the normal distance learning route via internet apps such as WhatsApp to give children their worksheets, but less than 15% of homes have internet in the farming community. Many could not afford the necessary data packages to utilize online learning either. Education in Guatemala, especially in rural areas, is vital to keep children from working on the streets. Over 40% of the population in Santa Cruz de Quiche is illiterate and children run the risk of becoming part of that statistic due to the pandemic. Thus, Ixcoy took action.

Ixcoy turned a simple second-hand tricycle into a mobile, pandemic-safe classroom. Plastic barriers adorn the sides serve as protection measures and he installed a whiteboard to show examples while teaching. The mobile classroom even has a solar panel for the stereo that is used for certain lessons. He maintains six feet of distance, often teaching children just outside their doorways. Every day, Ixcoy pedals to each student to teach them math, reading, science and art.

After weeks of quarantine, the children have something to look forward to. Both the children and Ixcoy wear face masks to avoid spreading the virus but continue lessons as normal as possible. Oscar Rojas, an 11-year-old student of Ixcoy says, “because now I’m not receiving normal classes, Teacher Lalito only comes for a little while to teach me, but I learn a lot.”

Ixcoy’s dedication to his student’s academic success is not only incredibly moving, but may also be a potential solution to the lack of educational access in Guatemala.

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in Guatemala
In 2010, American supermodel Christy Turlington Burns founded the nonprofit organization, Every Mother Counts (EMC). Following Turlington’s own challenging experience with postpartum hemorrhage, she realized that many women do not have access to the necessary resources for safe child delivery, especially when physical or mental implications arise post-partum. The organization dedicates itself to making pregnancy a safe experience for all expecting mothers.

By globally campaigning and targeting the critical flaws associated with maternal health, EMC has made significant strides toward reducing maternal mortality rates. In addition to its mobilization and awareness efforts, EMC currently provides funding for community-based programs in six selected countries. This specific roster includes how the organization aids maternal health in Guatemala.

Maternal Health in Guatemala

The most common postpartum complication and the main cause of maternal mortality is postpartum hemorrhage, otherwise known as internal bleeding. When untreated, the uncontrollable loss of blood may become fatal. Despite the dangers this poses, it is possible to mediate complications and prevent death when a specially qualified doctor or midwife is present.

Similar complications and the lack of essential healthcare contribute to the high maternal mortality rate in Guatemala: approximately 115 deaths per 100,000 live births. This alarming ratio represents the highest maternal mortality rate in Latin America. It also indicates the dire reality to which many expecting mothers are subject, including inadequate and unequal distribution of necessary prenatal and delivery services, insufficient access to necessary nutrition and overall poor social conditions.

Women living in rural areas — typically practicing traditional, indigenous lifestyles — are most at risk. In comparison to the national average, nearly three-fourths of maternal deaths occur among the indigenous population.

The combination of unstable living conditions, high fertility rates and the fact that doctors attend a low percentage of births reveal the validity of this statistic. For context, more than half of rural births occur under the supervision of under-qualified indigenous midwives, known as comadronas. Since many of them do not have the necessary skills or medical training required in the event of an issue, this leads to greater risks during delivery.

Long-term Advancements by Every Mother Counts

EMC’s contributions have led to collaborations with regional organizations in Guatemala. In partnership with Asociación Corazón del Agua, EMC has provided $180,000 in grant support toward Corazón’s university-level training programs for midwives, or parteras. Corazón is a national midwife program; recruiting students from regions with high rates of maternal mortality and incorporating indigenous traditions, such as certain birthing practices and plant-derived medicines into their training. Corazón also provides national protection for the midwife profession by certifying midwives as qualified to aid in childbirth across the country.

EMC also partners with Asociación de las Comadronas del Area Mam (ACAM). ACAM is a collective of comadronas that provides pregnant women essential healthcare and transportation services through its birth center and mobile clinics. In addition, the collective also focuses on upholding and teaching Mayan traditions in relation to pregnancy and birth. ACAM is able to continue these services and make an impact nationally based on the grants from EMC: totaling $226,000 to date.

Through its investments in midwife training, EMC is actively preventing maternal deaths and improving the overall quality of maternal health in Guatemala.

– Samantha Acevedo-Hernandez
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Guatemala
September 1, 2020, brought joy to citizens of Guatemala City as nearby schools finally received a long-awaited donation from the company, Amazon. Through coordinated efforts with Guatemala Minister of Education Claudia Ruíz Casasola, Amazon donated cooking supplies which will be dispersed among 500 schools surrounding Guatemala City. These schools are located in the Dry Corridor, an area that has suffered from food insecurity due to dramatic flooding followed by months of drought. Amazon’s donation to these 500 schools will perhaps assist 100,000 students currently battling food insecurity in Guatemala.

Amazon’s Partnership with the World Food Program (WFP) USA

Amazon is a partner of the World Food Program USA (WFP), an organization dedicated to fighting global hunger and famine. The organization has had quite a year, providing meals for 138 million people. They even raised $1 million in 10 days for those suffering the results of the explosion in Beirut. This partnership has allowed WFP to continue its efforts in supporting the Guatemalan government’s school feeding program while combating global hunger as a whole.

Amazon’s Partnership with the United Parcel Service (UPS)

This donation was long-awaited, as Amazon delivered the initial shipment back in February of 2020. Concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and international shipping delayed the distribution of the donation until now. Therefore, making this a moment of excitement and gratitude. However, the shipment of this donation was made possible through the generosity of the United Parcel Service (UPS). UPS covered the cost of the shipment of Amazon’s donation to the schools in Guatemala, contributing to the support of the WFP as it navigates the global challenges of the pandemic. The donations expect utilization in January when many public schools plan on welcoming back students.

The outcomes of this donation are plentiful, as food insecurity is a major threat to the children in Guatemala. This year’s cropping season produced Guatemala’s worst crop yield in 35 years due to excessive drought. Moreover, Guatemala faces the highest level of malnutrition in Latin America. As a result, many school-aged children face stunted growth and the pandemic contributed to a total of 1.2 million citizens, already in need of food assistance.

Through the generosity of Amazon and UPS, items such as bowls, blenders and pans will arrive in schools to prepare breakfasts and lunches for students facing food insecurity. By battling food insecurity  in Guatemala and malnutrition in schools, the government can work to make sure students are receiving their necessary nutrient intakes. In parallel, this does not place financial stress on families to provide daily meals for their children.

Mission Guatemala

The Guatemalan government’s school feeding program, in addition to other initiatives, such as Mission Guatemala, has the goal of ending any deaths relating to hunger across the country. Large organizations like the WFP, along with major businesses like Amazon and UPS have the potential to assist in the fight against global hunger in countries like Guatemala. Amazon and UPS have set a positive example with this donation. In this way, they bring awareness to the food crisis that exists in countries outside of the U.S. Due to the companies’ global influence, other major brands may follow suit. Potentially, making donations and partnering with organizations that work to assist others.

The WFP USA also accepts donations and the opportunity to begin fundraising through their website. Advocacy is essential, and any individual contribution can assist those battling hunger, as seen by the generosity of both Amazon and UPS.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Microfinance on Gender Inequality
Many women around the world struggle to stay afloat and support their families. However, the effects of microfinance on gender inequality are significant in that a loan could help women start businesses to financially support themselves.

The Story of Nicolasa

At the age of 4, Nicolasa’s mother died, leaving her in the care of her father and older sister. Though Nicolasa’s father did his best to provide for his daughters, they both had to abandon their education in order to keep the family afloat. Nicolasa and her sister worked on the streets of San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala selling a variety of food items.

As Nicolasa grew up and married, she vowed that her child would not live the same life as hers. She wanted to be present for her children, yet the only place she had worked was far from home. To care for her children both physically and financially, Nicolasa decided she would start her own weaving business from home. With no capital or collateral, and no banks to borrow from in her small town, Nicolasa faced an immense obstacle.

Microfinance

Nicolasa’s problem is one that many women in Guatemala and other developing nations face every day. Guatemalan women want to become financially independent but often have nowhere to obtain even a small loan. Without the aid of a financial institution, these women have minimal opportunity to start a business, make small investments or simply support their families.

In 1976, Muhammad Yunus recognized the difficulties these women face and started the first modern run microfinancing bank. His goal was to lend small amounts to those in developing countries who did not have access to banks or had little collateral to support their endeavors. A microloan as small as $60 could now go to a woman opening a fruit stand, for example. Microloans may not cover large purchases, but just a small amount of money can go a long way for women in developing nations. A successful loan may help a woman jump-start her business and become financially independent. Therefore, the effect of microfinance on gender inequality could be very significant.

The Effect of Microfinance on Gender Inequality

Studies have proven microfinance to be a great tool for economic development and the promotion of gender equality. When women are financially independent, they often meet with greater decision making power within their households. Gender equality within households often results in women taking a more prominent stance on societal issues, which in turn, further promotes equality around the world.

Gender equality can also create a healthier and more robust global economy. A study that the McKinsey Global Institute conducted claims that if each country had equal opportunity for women, the global GDP would increase by $28 trillion, or 26% by 2025. From individual households to the global economy, gender equality results in a healthier balance of power across developing nations.

Criticism

Not everyone agrees with the impact that microfinance could have on gender equality. Many critics claim that a country’s cultural disapproval of women who work can minimize the positive effects of microfinance and prevent women from obtaining microloans. To combat these cultural norms and their negative effects on gender equality, many microfinance banks offer loans to women who are hoping to start a business from home. Nicolasa is one of these women.

Nicolasa Now

Nicolasa obtained a loan of $400 from the Foundation for International Community Assistance. She used the money to buy a loom, from which her success was significant enough to seek investment for a second loom. She currently weaves fabric and rents out her other loom to women from her village. Nicolasa is now proudly saving to send her daughter to college.

Nicolasa is one of many women in developing countries experiencing the positive effects of microfinance. She has provided herself with a sustainable income and is giving her daughter the wonderful gifts of higher education and financial support. If one small loan can change a woman’s life for the better, it is easy to see how microfinance is providing the same benefits to women across the world.

– Aiden Farr
Photo: Flickr

 

The Work of Global Pearls
Global Pearls, a nonprofit organization that emerged in 2016, aims to tackle the root causes of poverty in some of the world’s most marginalized communities. With projects spanning across Latin America, Africa and Asia, Global Pearls addresses issues such as inaccessibility to education, income inequality and violence prevention in developing countries. With 100% of every dollar donated going directly to programs, each project maximizes the positive impact it makes toward helping the world’s poor. Keep reading to learn more about the work of Global Pearls.

The Mission

Global Pearls seeks to reduce “suffering among marginalized populations in developing countries by empowering changemakers from within.” To empower such changemakers, Global Pearls supports and funds leaders in developing communities ready to tackle issues and bring about positive change.

Lack of Access to Education in Guatemala

In a country like Guatemala, where the poor are unable to access essential healthcare services, many children are abandoned or left on the streets. With more than 58% of Guatemalan children aged 7-14 working in the agriculture industry, many do not have access to funds for schooling, books and uniforms.

As a result, 18.5% of the population aged over 15 are unable to read or write. Children living on the street in Guatemala are also at a higher risk of engaging in physical violence to survive due to poverty, abuse and social exclusion.

Global Pearls Creates Change

Recognizing that over 10% of children ages 7-14 are unable to receive an education, the work of Global Pearls has extended to helping Sandra Alonzo Pac establish an educational scholarship program for children in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala called Estudia Con Amor. The program supports children who need additional funding from middle school through university. Street children involved in the program are also receiving help with clothing, food and medical costs. Because families living below the poverty line are more likely to keep their children out of school, children without education have a higher chance of living in poverty. Programs like Estudia Con Amor are essential in ending the cycle of poverty for struggling individuals.

Maria, a participant in the Estudia Con Amor scholarship program, discussed how she was unable to attend school with her mom working multiple jobs daily to support the family. She described her sadness when she saw the other children in the village walking to school with their backpacks, wishing that she could be one of them. With the help of the Estudia Con Amor Scholarship through Global Pearls, she began her studies, hoping to one day become a doctor.

Income Inequality in Honduras

Like Guatemala, attending traditional schools in Honduras is very difficult for children who travel long distances on foot to school. With Honduras holding the third-highest illiteracy rate in Central America due to income inequality, youth struggles to afford school and find job opportunities.

How Community Leaders in Honduras are Helping

Due to the cost of $100 a year to supply students with the textbooks and supplies they need for schooling, many poor students are unable to attend. With the help of Global Pearls, Sor Marta established a high school scholarship program for children who want to continue their education but cannot afford the cost.

Global Pearls Founder, Lisa Spader, embraces the idea that “you are capable of making your community better; you don’t need other people to make your community better.” Because of this, Spader urges the program participants to dream about what they want their future to look like and how that dream can become a reality with hard work and the right resources.

John, a 14-year old boy in the Honduras program, talked about how the Caja rural project has impacted his life: “I will not forget the day you arrived […] It was a rainy evening, and I was trembling with cold, but you hugged me, and I felt warmer. In that conversation, the idea of the Caja rural project became real […] Soon, I began leading my colleagues. This project has made a mark on my life in ways I could never have imagined […] You helped me find my life purpose. […] I know that starting a project changes the lives of those who start them. I know because I’m a living example.”

As a result of the program, John began the Caja rural project, which lends money to people to invest in microenterprises. He is now an active supporter in assisting others in finding their ways to better their community.

Prevalence of Violence in Honduras

People know gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 in Honduras for utilizing violence and threats to establish authority. As a result, Honduras is one of the world’s most violent places, with an average of 13 people murdered each day. With limited opportunity for youth, many young Hondurans resort to gang participation to protect welfare and identity.

Giving Resources to Youth

Recognizing the prevalence of this issue, community leader, Jeremias Vobada, who grew up in an orphanage on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, founded a soccer program for over 100 youth with Global Pearls. The program helps to give them a safe space to grow and develop. He has also partnered with a local contractor to provide children interested in the electrical field the experience and skills necessary to construct solar panels. This necessary resource allows electricity to run in remote communities.

Looking Forward

In a continually evolving world, it is more important than ever to address pressing issues that face marginalized communities. Global Pearls recognizes empowered leaders who have a passion for changing their community but do not receive marketing worldwide. By funding and engaging in projects with these leaders, more children can attend school and make their future dreams a reality.

To learn more about the impactful work of Global Pearls and its projects, click here: https://globalpearls.org/.

– Erica Fealtman
Photo: Flickr