How Mentors Make A Difference for Girls in Guatemala

Advocacy , Education , Leadership , Safety and Violence

Claudia Macz Chen, 23-years-old is a mentor from Coban, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Claudia serves as a mentor through the Abriendo Oportunidades program, led by UNFPA in Guatemala. Below is her story on why she decided to be a mentor to younger girls and how it has impacted her life.

I started as a mentor for Abriendo Oportunidades, when I was 17 years old. I’ve been part of Abriendo Oportunidades in Chisec since October 2013 when 50 communities organized to work here. It was very exciting because we had ceremonies and we would go to the communities and talk about our program. The mayor even attended the ceremony! As a mentor, I had a group of 30 girls and 15 adolescents.

Some of the workshop topics we talk about are self-esteem, why we should love one another and how to prevent violence. Preventing violence is one of the important workshops topics because all the girls here have experienced violence in their own families. In my case, I am the 7th of 10 children. My parents separated because there were problems. My mom told me that they started fighting a long time ago but she didn’t know what to do or knew of any resources. She wanted to leave my father after the third child because there was a lot of violence. They didn’t separate because my mother was pregnant at the time. What I witnessed with them was hard. I now live with my mother and my father lives by himself.

There is a difference between the girls who participate in Abriendo Oportunidades and the ones who don’t. It’s about having friends in the community. There are a lot of things that parents don’t let their daughters participate in. When you have friends, you motivate each other to continue your studies beyond primary school. In school, the girls talk a lot. They also meet up for the sake of talking to one another. Girls lose the fear of participating in class and the fear of public speaking. They now have more confidence. They are motivated to come up to mentors, like me and share a personal problem they’re experiencing.

That’s why it’s important that we strengthen the Abriendo Oportunidades program. I suffered a lot of psychological violence and now I know that you must stay away and prevent the violence. I am on scholarship now but since I studied in primary school, I had to pay for my school. I worked Monday through Friday and studied on the weekends.

If there’s a message I’d like to share with other girls is, I may not know all of the lives of girls around the world but I do know that all women share the same experiences as women. We have to continue fighting to improve the situation of our countries and to improve the lives of women living in them.