- Half of Guatemalan girls have a child before the age of 19.
- At least 1/5 girls in Guatemalan have 2 children before the age of 18.
- Guatemala ranks 3rd globally in the killings of women.
- Guatemala ranks 112th out of the 135 countries world-wide in gender equality, making it the most gender unequal country in Latin America.
- Only 49% of adult women in Guatemala are employed (in the formal economy) compared to 86% of men.
- In Guatemala, 53.7% of the population lives in poverty. And 75% of the indigenous population live in poverty.
- By age fifteen, 6 out of 10 Indigenous girls have dropped out of school.
- By age 18, almost 40%of Indigenous girls are married (almost twice the amount of their non-indigenous counterparts). 
- By age 20, 44% are mothers, for Indigenous women it’s 54%, and for under-educated women it’s 68%.
- There is a high amount of pregnancies between the ages of 10 and 14. Guatemala has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Latin America, and it is on the rise. 
- Guatemala’s Human Rights Office reports that sexual abuse is rampant and 89% of cases are perpetrated by family members, a contributing factor to the rise in teen pregnancies. 
- 25% of the country is illiterate.
- According to USAID the average length of education is four years and only one third graduate from the sixth grade.
- Widespread poverty means that many children are forced to leave school due to either their parents’ inability to pay for school related expenses (transport, uniform, supplies etc) or the necessity of children to work.
- Drop out rates in the rural and indigenous population is dramatically high. 
- Teen pregnancy rates are very high, on the rise, and a major factor in drop out rates among girls.
Guatemala enacted a Family Planning law in 2009 with the intention of addressing the issue of teen pregnancy, but the follow through has been poor. Access to contraception remains a problem for teenagers due to conservative attitudes, cultural norms and the influence of the Catholic tradition.
The realities of conservatism and a lack of proper resources and training means that schools often don’t deliver proper sexual health education which is ‘officially’ required by law. The 2011 law administered by the Ministry of Education which prohibits dating in schools is evident of the punitive attitude surrounding the topic.  The statistics reveal significant issues with access to education which disproportionately affect girls.
Education in Guatemala: Access vs. Quality
What is harder to understand and measure is the quality of education. For those who make it and stay in school, the encouragement of idea-formation and participatory and exploratory learning approaches are lacking. The reliance on note-taking learning techniques, produces students who are unable to think for themselves, unable to form opinions, unable to form an argument or even answer questions confidently (or at all). Students’ opinions are under-valued. It’s not hard to imagine what kind of person this creates and the vital skills students miss out on when they have not developed the confidence and ability to express their own ideas. Teacher training is also a very significant issue in education here in Guatemala.
We keep having conversations about access to education, it is much harder to have the conversation about quality. At the moment the current educational landscape in Guatemala is not equipped to lay the foundations for a future of women empowered with the knowledge to confidently make informed decisions, adequately take care of themselves and their families, take control of their own lives or a future with more female leadership and political representation across society.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE & INTER-GENERATIONAL TRAUMA
Guatemala has a strong legacy of sexual violence. During the 36 year long Guatemalan Civil War, it is estimated that more than 100,000 girls and women were victims to the systematic rape of by various government forces. Read more about it here.
Although the war is ‘officially’ over, a rampant machismo culture and a patriarchal society means that the war that girls and women face everyday, against sexism, against oppression due to conservative gender norms and against sexual violence is not over. Out of the 4,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 that became pregnant in 2012, according to UNICEF, 30% of them were raped by their fathers. 
The social effects, social and psychological trauma inflicted by war take generations to heal and the emotional trauma can have inter-generational effects. Campaigning lawyer Almudena Bernabeu, who worked on the trials held in Spain to investigate the mass rapes and gender violence talks about the inter-generational affects of the culture of sexual violence and the need for not only legal recognition but a conversation: "This trial will help open a debate about femicide, because the lack of justice actually contributes to increasing gender violence.”
Psychologist coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Guatemala Mayra Rodas says, “Women are treated as objects, which can be taken. To be a woman here is like being garbage. This is what our patients tell us,” she identifies fear as a debilitating psychological consequence of sexual violence. 
The legacy of gender violence in Guatemala and the present machismo culture contribute to the alarming rates of sexual violence and killings of women for which Guatemala ranks 3rd globally.
POVERTY AS A RISK FACTOR
Poverty is another, often debilitating, barrier that girls in Guatemala face. Poverty is widespread and is a huge risk factor for teen pregnancy and sexual violence, along with the lack of opportunity and access to services among populations suffering poverty.
With so many factors to consider when discussing the realties of being a girl here in Guatemala it can get overwhelming. The information presented here are just some of the issues that we find to be most pressing, issues we encounter daily in the work that we do.
The SERniña curriculum is designed specifically to counter some of these realities.
- We provide comprehensive and quality reproductive, puberty and sexual health education, with a positive and body-connection emphasis. We not only teach the biological realities and equip them with all the fundamental knowledge we also work hard to breakdown the culture of shame and taboo surrounding their bodies and menstruation. We not only want girls to be healthy and to delay pregnancy, we want them to be comfortable and confident with their own bodies and their own self-care and to develop assertive communication skills and bodily-autonomy.
- We are constantly encouraging the importance of education, we explicitly teach ‘staying in school’ as the most reliable factor in creating their own path in life, a message that is reinforced throughout our entire curriculum.
- We are working towards collaborating more with schools and families to lower the number of girls dropping out.
- We offer specialised workshops to address needs identified by schools, and our living-curriculum ensures we address needs as they arise. In our Financial Literacy workshops we taught girls applicable skills for saving, we also looked at household budgets which was used as a tool to show the economic realities of supporting a family at a young age with little education and employability.
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