Poverty in Guatemala
Mercado Global is working to reduce poverty in Guatemala by providing craftswomen and weavers of the rural highland regions with opportunities to become fiscally sustainable and contribute to their communities’ economic growth.

In Guatemala, only 45% of girls of secondary school age are enrolled in secondary school, and only 72% of women are literate. In order to promote female empowerment, Mercado Global offers business education programs that teach women how to start and run a community business — from managing cost and pricing to filing taxes. The education programs also offer leadership training sessions and assistance in developing savings and accessing credit.

Once craftswomen know how to invest and sustain their businesses, they sell their wares through international retail partners such as J. Crew, Anthropologie and Accompany. Mercado Global also offers personal and community savings programs as well as microloans.

To place the need for financial sustainability into context, over half of all Guatemalans live in poverty. Within the indigenous population, 75% are living in poverty. The World Bank reported that the country reduced its poverty rate from 56% to 51% between 2000 and 2006. However, more recent figures show that poverty rose to 59.3% in 2014. The effects of poverty are especially evident in rural areas, where eight out of 10 people are considered poor.

According to a 2010 Economic and Social Council report, women in Guatemala experience gender inequalities, which are often compounded by geographic and ancestral factors. Women earn 31% less than men in urban centers, and 37% less in rural areas. Indigenous women in rural areas face a 28% employment rate, while 63% of rural indigenous men are employed.

While the World Bank predicts the reduction of rural poverty in Guatemala will likely be a slow and long-term endeavor, Mercado Global plans to continue empowering rural indigenous women one loom at a time.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr