“Through games, stories and reflections, I’m learning that as a girl I have the same rights as my brothers. I can dream and make plans for my future and nobody has the right to take these dreams away from me. I want to study and work in what I choose. And I learned that just like me, every person deserves respect regardless of their age or gender.”
This is what Marina said after the workshop that Mayan Hands offered in conjunction with Ser Niña (Being a Girl), an organization whose mission is to bring awareness about the marginalization of women in Guatemalan society and to change it through education. At the Mayan Hands July event in which 42 scholarships were distributed for high school and university studies, Ser Niña presented their second workshop on this theme.
Because of the prevailing ideology of machismoin the country--which affirms and reinforces the superiority of men in every aspect of life, and devalues women--and the general racism against the indigenous population, Mayan women have few opportunities to choose their path in life. They experience triple discrimination, as Mayan, as women, and as people living in poverty.
Since our inception thirty years ago, Mayan Hands has been committed to working with Mayan women to both alleviate poverty and empower them. A regular fair trade income has come a long way in enabling the women to feel strong about themselves and gives them a voice within their families and communities. Throughout these years our artisan partners have also participated in workshops to create awareness of the prevailing gender system, the value of women and the importance of providing opportunities for their daughters to transcend the limitations posed by the system.
The Ser Niña presentation fostered an important generational dialogue. The girls and their mothers had a chance to discuss the ways in which they feel they have or have not been allowed to reach their potential, and whether they have been respected or mistreated growing up. They reflected on the integrity of each person and their autonomy over their body, and how only the girl or woman herself has the right to decide about her life and her body. They talked about the risks that women are exposed to and discussed strategies to be safe and to demand respect from others. The dialogue helped deepen the understanding of each other: the girls heard stories of what their mothers went through as young women, and the mothers learned about their daughters’ wishes to study, work and delay marriage.
The Ser Niña workshop was the centerpiece of our scholarship gathering, a celebration of our artisan partners and their daughters who are continuing their education. Mothers and daughters alike said it had been an enlightening and enjoyable day and expressed their wish to continue expanding their horizons through workshops like this.