Education, leadership, and conservation: Empowering young Q’eqchi’ women in Guatemala

Elsevier, International Journal of Educational Development, Volume 59, March 2018, Pages 28-34
Dawn S. Bowen and Amy Leap Miller

Programs to keep young women in school across the developing world have become widespread. Education is key to improving their quality of life, but keeping them in school is a significant challenge. This article examines a case study of a scholarship program that provides 25 days of intensive leadership training for young indigenous women using a peer tutorial system. The program offers a unique experience, a variety of practical training, opportunities for personal growth, and evidence of empowerment. This study demonstrates that social change is occurring and that young women are promoting change in their own lives, as well as those of their families and communities.

Nominated for the Elsevier Atlas Award in March 2018, the judges remarked that "the story of the Women in Agroecology Leadership for Conservation (WALC) is one that deserves to be told: the programme has helped hundreds of young indigenous women in Guatemala’s rural areas to learn life skills and continue their education. As the authors explain, the programme has shown to the young women that they can make choices about their lives, despite of the traditional social norms that do not encourage education, especially for girls. The article includes an interesting, well-referenced discussion about the challenges of measuring empowerment, and uses a framework of competencies for empowerment."