Indigenous, Young, Female, and Running for President in Guatemala

Guatemala is holding national elections this year. Since Guatemala gained its independence in 1821, there have been 50 presidents, depending on what you count as a president, all of whom were male, none of whom were indigenous. This year we are so excited to have 5 women running for president, 4 of whom are Girl Pioneers at the MAIA Impact School who are running to be student body president.

Girl Pioneers during a flag ceremony at the MAIA Impact School.

Girl Pioneers during a flag ceremony at the MAIA Impact School.

Guatemala has one of the largest gender equity gaps in Latin America. At a national level, women make up only 12.7 percent of Congress; the global average is 23.5 percent. Guatemala has to do some serious work if it wants to catch up or, better yet, reach the critical mass benchmark that is set at 30 percent participation of women. Thirty percent is considered a considerable minority, meaning that the voices, ideas, and policies are heard and acted upon. While it is still far from gender parity, a significant impact can be created.  

With such a low level of representation of women at a national level and only one indigenous woman in Congress, it’s easy to understand why year after year Guatemala is one of the most unequal countries in the world. When women participate in politics at all levels, there is greater responsiveness to the needs of ALL citizens because women legislators are more likely to introduce policies that specifically benefit women and minorities. A more inclusive legislature leads to a more sustainable future because it supports investing in public health, education, and local economic development initiatives.

Meet the Girl Pioneers Running for President

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As 9th-graders, these inspiring young presidential hopefuls are campaigning to be the first-ever presidenta of the MAIA Impact School. They are on their way to becoming leaders in their families and communities, and maybe one day Guatemalans will be voting for one of them to be president of the country. Today we are celebrating their aspirations and bold ambitions that go far beyond igniting change at the school.

Guatemala has a long way to go before it has equal representation. This year’s elections, both at the national and Impact School level, are an important step along that journey. If one of the young women from MAIA is going to grow up to be president of Guatemala one day, she will need positive role models and allies along the way. We see these role models every day when we look at the team at the Impact School, and with allies like you, they are well on their way to achieving any goal they set, even the presidential palace in Guatemala City. 

Stay tuned next month to hear directly from our four presidential hopefuls about why they are running for student government and why it’s important that girls’ voices are heard in national politics.

If you are interested in learning more about the political situation in Guatemala, leading up to the national presidential election in August, we recommend reading these recent articles:Political Risk Analysis: Why Guatemala’s Elections Matter from Forbes andGuatemala elections show corruption rampant four years after uprising toppled president from The Guardian.