11.10.2016 - Education Sector

Indigenous girls on a clear path to become leaders in Guatemala


Guatemalan teenager Keyli Paulina Chic is pursuing her dream to study thanks to a UNESCO-Guatemalan governmental project to give indigenous young people a second chance at education.

Keyli lives in the Choacorral community in Santa María Chiquimula, Totonicapán, in the western highlands of Guatemala where poverty and marginalization forces children out of school and into the fields to work.  

In Guatemala more than 70 per cent of the total population lives in rural areas and is considered poor, 63.2 per cent are indigenous and 54 per cent of households are managed by young single women. Around 43 per cent of women do not know how to read and write and 12.32 per cent of them are aged 15-19, according to statistics from the National Survey of Quality of Life)

Keyli had finished 6th grade and was struggling to continue her studies when she heard about the Saqilaj B’e programme: A Clear Path to Assert the Rights of Indigenous Adolescent Girls in Guatemala. Saqilaj B’e means ‘white path’ in the Mayan language, Quiché.

Young women become agents of change

The programme, designed under an agreement between the Government of Guatemala, UNESCO, UNICEF and other UN agencies, aims to reinsert girls and adolescents into the educational system. It works particularly to empower indigenous girls to become leaders and fully participate in decision-making in their communities through literacy and numeracy programmes adapted for those who work and followed through mobile learning devices. The digital literacy tool is available in Spanish, Maya-Mam and Maya-Kiche languages.

It offers a primary education accelerated programme with a special focus on reinserting young women who may be juggling work and study into education with a special emphasis on pregnancy prevention. It aims at empowering young girls and adolescents to take an active part in decision-making processes that affect their lives. It promotes that participation at community and national levels, so that they can become agents who fight for their rights.

“When I joined the programme, I was afraid. I wanted to be there, but I was scared of speaking in front of others. Now I do not feel that, I feel safe, like a teacher. I think that if I keep learning more and more then I can do something for my community”, said Keyli.

At the same time the programme works to strengthen the capacities of the Ministry of Education through improvement of the Adult Education Correspondence Programme.

“I’ve learned that I can do whatever I want if I put effort on things. I’ve learned that I have rights and that opens opportunities for me, I know that someday I will go to college and have a better life,” said Keyli

October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child. UNESCO recently released a new Gender Review underlining the huge benefits to the environment that result from empowering women.


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