Child Rights and Community-Centered Projects in the Eastern Highlands

I have have not posted blogs for a while, not because I haven’t been working on the Fulbright Project but because I have been quite busy with related fieldwork. My Facebook friends and Instagram followers know about these activities since I’ve been posting photos of my numerous field trips. I’m dedicate this blog to two case studies I have been developing in the last two weeks: two community-based projects supported by the Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA) and the secondary/vocational program of the Centro Ecuménico de Integración Pastoral (CEIPA).

On June 2, 2016, I visited community-based, educational projects in regions of K’iche’ (Quiché) indigenous origin in two villages located in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, Solola: one in the Caserio Xeabaj II and another one in Aldea Chiquisis. AMA’s mission is “to support the empowerment process of isolated and marginalized women through community organizing, education programming, resource strengthening,  and  alliance building so that these women may live with dignity and  initiate processes of sustainable development through the formation of small groups and popular education techniques.” To accomplish this mission, AMA supports the formation of women’s cooperatives of weavers, midwives, farmers, health workers, entrepreneurs, and professionals. By doing that, AMA enables educational and job opportunities to women in a free atmosphere of sexual discrimination and harassment.

The first community-based project is the construction of a building of two classrooms for secondary education in Caserio Xeabaj II where primary school teachers volunteer their time to teach secondary school classes to youth who otherwise would not be able to continue their  secondary education in this remote community. The second community-based project is the provision of a modest monthly compensation to teachers who utilize the classrooms of the local primary school under the guidance of community leaders. Through these projects, AMA is redefining humanitarian assistance by supporting the organization of communities in the Eastern Highlands, who are engaged in their self-development, including the start-up of educational program within their localities to create community assets, i.e., building social infrastructure, forming community educators, and educating children in a culturally sensitive environment. This week I met with community leaders and teachers and plan to visit later in the month to interview the youth in the secondary school.

On June 3, 2016, I visited the secondary school of CEIPA, an ecumenical pastoral center promoting the rights of children in Xela and 15 municipalities in the Highlands. CEIPA’s mission is “helping to build a society that respects and fulfills the human rights of children, adolescents and youth organization.” One of CEIPA’s strategies to accomplish this mission is to provides educational opportunities to children and adolescents out of school and provides the youth with training and technical assistance so that they may be able to access employment and productive activities. CEIPA also provides them with referrals for health care, psychosocial and legal assistance, as well as cultural and recreational activities. I was able to interview five of the youth benefited by CEIPA’s programs who provided specific examples about how this assistance is making a difference to them, families and communities, and how it is preparing them for a better future, once they graduate from secondary school. Both the underage and adult youth spoke of their aspirations for higher education but acknowledged how much they have learned about their rights, as children and human beings.

As I approach the last month of my stay in Guatemala, I’m prioritizing my time in interviewing providers and beneficiaries of this type of programs. The interviews with the children and youth ages 13-23 years old, individually and in groups, are being complemented by informational meetings with administrators, educators, clinicians, and related staff, to prepare the case studies exemplifying educational opportunities for youth at risk in Guatemala. Case studies will be used for comparative purposes in the transformative evaluation of the educational program that got this research project started: the one supported by the Violence Prevention Program (VPP), about which I reported earlier.

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