Young women in the Starfish One by One program are breaking the glass ceiling by committing to six years of a junior high and high school education and a brighter future for themselves and their families. Dedicated mentors (other Mayan women who have walked the same path and are among the one percent to reach university) support our students throughout their six years in the program. These mentors run weekly peer support groups for fifteen Starfish girls, offer out of school academic tutoring, and work with student families to surmount traditional barriers that impede education and women’s empowerment. However, the institutionalized marginalization of Mayan women means that young women in the Starfish program face barriers that extend beyond poverty, access to schooling, and cultural norms. Family violence, combined with high rates of alcoholism, can all too quickly derail a young woman’s educational ambitions.
This past week, educators from the JUCONI Foundation of Mexico traveled to Guatemala to provide valuable training around the issue of domestic violence to Starfish mentors and four other NGO groups in Panajachel, Guatemala.
This training will allow Starfish mentors to better support our incredible Starfish students in any family issues they may encounter. Many mentors in the Starfish program have faced situations in which a bubbly, engaged leader in the peer group suddenly disengages. Her group participation drops and her grades in school suffer. When the mentor approaches the young woman about this change in behavior, she sometimes learns about issues of domestic violence in the home. This domestic violence ranges from physical abuse by alcoholic mothers or fathers to sexual advances by other adult family members. Unfortunately, this scenario occurs far more often than it should. Violence is notoriously underreported, but one recent study asserts that 9 out of every 10 women in Guatemala has been a victim of some form of violence in the home.
Starfish mentors are well versed in academic support, financial literacy, and reproductive education, and skillfully confront cultural issues like lack of family support around education. Starfish mentors need professional and culturally appropriate training to confront the issue of domestic violence. Specific training is needed to provide each young woman with the skills to cope with and recover from the devastating consequences of violence. Training is also needed to teach young women in the program to recognize the signs of and prevent domestic violence. Starfish is excited to partner with JUCONI to bring this training directly to Guatemala and to other organizations as well.
As Starfish continues to expand its impact – over 210 students are now enrolled for six years of intensive support and education — our ever growing staff must be trained to effectively deal with family and domestic violence. Through acquiring these new skills, Starfish mentors ensure that young women do not succumb to pressures and problems, but stay in school.
Posted on May 23, 2012