Catrinka Girls Project
If you are looking for the biggest bang for your buck in girls education, invest it in life skills mentoring for vulnerable girls, delivered by peer mentors. That is the advice we got from Judith Bruce, the pioneer in the adolescent girls education space, and we followed it when we created our program.
The Catrinka Girls Project is a life skills mentoring program for indigenous Mayan girls aged 8-19 in Totonicapan, Guatemala. It is run by Redmi Aq'ab'al, a new NGO formed by 8 women graduates of the international NGO Population Council's Abriendo Oportunidades program, to 1) expand its education and life skills mentoring work to the Totonicapan area; and 2) deepen it by providing a small production co-op for older girls, so they can develop new skills and earn money to invest in their education and improve their financial literacy. Until 2017, the girls made friendship bracelets that they sold to Catrinka, for us to include as a special gift with every bag purchase.
For 2018, during our brand transition time to new ownership, we took a break from contributing to Redmi Aq'ab'al.
Today (2019), the Catrinka Girls Project contributes to the same organization for their life skills mentoring program for indigenous Mayan girls aged 8-19 in Totonicapan, Guatemala.
Learn more about the impact of the project in our Impact Reports.
Meet some of the young women and girls in the program in these short videos:
Younger girls (2016)
Magdalena, 10, is the oldest of three children, and her parents work in the fields. When her mother is working, she looks after her 1 year old sister. Before joining, she was very shy and didn't like expressing her opinions. Through the program, she has been learning about her strengths and discovering her skills, and says her attitude and thoughts have changed. She loves sharing the experience with other girls, and building a network of girlfriends. Magdalena wants to become a teacher so she can help the girls in her community.
As of 2016, Ericka, 12, lives with her aunt and two little brothers. Her parents had to move away to be able to earn enough to support their children's education. Before joining the Catrinka Girls Project, her classmates made fun of her for being too scared to answer a question in class. She is discovering her voice and isn't afraid to express her opinions. Her dream is to get an advanced degree and become a teacher to help her community.
Older girl (2016):
As of 2016, Benita, 15, would like to continue formal education but doesn't have the financial resources to do it. Once a year she works 2-3 months over the holidays in a restaurant kitchen or taking care of children for a wealthy family to contribute economically to her family. She would like to build her own business and sees the program as a way to build the skills to do that.
Elizabeth was the coordinator of Redmi, the NGO formed by indigenous women to provide education and life skills mentoring to adolescent girls in the most vulnerable and poor rural areas of Guatemala. "We see what the girls’ lives are like. It is very difficult. They have very few opportunities to be able to succeed in life." The program's goal is to strengthen girls "so they can make their own decisions about their own lives."
Hermelinda was the leader of the productive skills component of the Catrinka Girls Project. "I feel very good to be passing my skills to other adolescent girls who need them." I invite every adolescent girl to be a fighter, to be an entrepreneur, that each of us be an example for every girl who comes behind us."