Elvia’s Story – Guatemala

Women’s Justice Initiative, WJI, in Guatemala provides extensive training in rights education and leadership skills. WJI’s Program Coordinator, Elvia,  joined the organization at its inception in September 2011. She has played a key role in the organization’s development and success. Elvia joined WJI after working for a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Population Council, an international organization that works in Guatemala to empower rural Mayan girls.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11.47.52 PMElvia’s personal story illustrates many of the challenges facing young Mayan girls and women in Guatemala.“I am the oldest of five siblings, two sisters and two brothers. My father is a field laborer and my mother is a housewife. Since I was 8 years old, I would wake up at 4:00 am to work in the field with my father and afterward I would help my mom clean the house and cook before I left for school. When I turned 12, my father decided to take me out of school. He said that I didn’t need to continue with my studies because I knew how to read and write and I was a girl, and girls were only meant to get married and have children. Elvina says she always longed to have a different life from that of her parents. She wanted to continue going to school and to be an example in her community that women and not just men, could become professionals.

When she graduated from high school, her father was very proud of her and began to understand the importance of educating girls. She wanted to go to a university, but her family could not afford it. Five years later, she found a scholarship to pay for my university studies and in 2105 she graduated with a degree in Social Work. She was the first person, in her entire town to graduate from college. Elvia serves as a powerful role model, not only for her family and her town, but also for the women who participate in WJI’s programs.

I have been working for WJI since 2011. I work with women who come from similar backgrounds to me. I love my work because I get to teach women about their rights and educate them on issues that affect many of them and their families…. Working directly with vulnerable women and seeing their transformation through our programs has been an incredible experience for me, both professionally and personally. ~Elvina