Guatemala stands out in Latin America. Despite having the strongest economy, it is one of the continent’s most violent and unequal countries.
Despite stable economic growth in recent years, the distribution is so skewed that 60 percent of the population lives in poverty. This has led to almost half of the children suffering from malnutrition and malnutrition, child mortality is high and many children leave school to help at home or to find a job.
About half of the population belongs to different indigenous peoples, and it is these groups that are exposed to the most discrimination and have the most difficult living conditions. Four out of five indigenous peoples live in poverty, the majority of children are malnourished, and maternal mortality is twice as high as in the rest of the population.
The number of homicides is declining, but Guatemala is still one of the most violent countries in Latin America. Violence and crime are common and human trafficking, sexual exploitation and drug crimes characterize society. Guatemala has made some progress in tackling corruption and impunity.
Daughters are seen as less valuable
Guatemala is one of Latin America’s most unequal countries . There is a high preference for sons , especially among indigenous peoples. This means that boys are seen as more valuable than girls. Only 1 in 8 indigenous girls finish primary school. Violence against girls and women is a problem throughout the country. High levels of sexual violence lead to many girls becoming pregnant, often before the age of 15.
Another gender equality problem is the lack of jobs for young women.
Support to finish school
Plan International has been in Guatemala for over 40 years. We work in over 600 rural communities and our programs reach over 90,000 children and young people.
In 2017, the 18-year age limit for marriage was finally adopted, which Plan International has long worked to achieve. Plan International is now working to follow up so that the authorities follow the law.
We support children and young people so that they can complete their education and work to ensure that young people, with a focus on girls, have the opportunity to work with dignified working conditions. Hundreds of young people participate in our vocational training in order to eventually be able to enter working life and earn their own income.
We work to protect girls from all forms of violence, both by strengthening the safety net and working for better information and health care linked to sex and cohabitation. We offer conversations and support to young girls who have been sexually abused.
We also have work for children and young people with disabilities, a group that is excluded and discriminated against in society. In December 2018, we went with Musikhjälpen to interview some of the children, young people and parents that Plan International supports and works with.
Young people took over as EU ambassadors
One April morning in 2017, five young people from rural areas took over the office of the EU Delegation in Guatemala. An inspiring morning awaited them.
In preparation for the visit, the five young people took part in Plan International’s workshop where they learned more about the EU’s new guidelines for protecting and promoting children’s rights recently launched in Guatemala. The young people also received training in how social media can be used for advocacy work and had produced texts for the delegation’s Facebook and Twitter. They met with Ambassador Stefano Gatto to discuss how the guidelines can solve problems that children and young people face in Guatemala today: such as access to education, malnutrition, job creation and small opportunities to participate in decision-making processes.
– We really appreciate being able to talk to the ambassador, because we believe that our opinion counts. Because we are young, it can sometimes be difficult for us to make ourselves heard, says 18-year-old Rossy.
After an exciting morning filled with new knowledge, interviews with program managers and updates on social media, the young people returned home even more motivated to their areas to continue the work for children’s rights.
Healthy start in life
Equality from day one
We now know that all children, regardless of gender, must be treated equally from birth. In the past, midwives were paid less if a girl was born.
Juana (55), midwife
Plan International works to ensure that all children have safe, healthy and good years of upbringing. We have ensured that close to 10,000 children and their mothers have access to care. We have trained 350 health workers in nutritional physiology, so that they can contribute to children having access to clean water, nutritious diet and safe hygiene.
The world’s most important investment
Thanks to the scholarship from Plan International, I have had the opportunity to buy school uniforms and shoes. I am very happy that I can continue to go to school and get a job in the future.
The majority of the girls where Timotea lives find it difficult to complete school. Many parents do not think that education is so important for girls, then it is better that they get married so that the family does not have to bear the financial burden. Girls who finish school are less exposed to violence, child marriage and pregnancy. Plan International awards school scholarships and supports girl groups that conduct opinion formation on how important it is for girls to be educated towards local leaders, families and authorities.
Facts about Guatemala
Capital: Guatemala City
Population: 16 million
Life expectancy: 73 years
Infant mortality rate: 24 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 85.5%
Proportion of women in Parliament: 12.7%