In 2022, 23,000 girls were out of school just in the Sololá department in Guatemala, according to the Ministry of Education of Guatemala (MINEDUC). For these girls, not only are their futures at stake, but also their health, safety and mental wellbeing. As evidence around the world has shown, when girls are in school, there is less risk of them suffering violence in the forms of forced marriage and unplanned pregnancies. Most importantly, MINEDUC data shows that when a girl reaches 7th grade, she is more likely to finish high school, compared to her male peers. However, finishing 6th grade is already a challenge for girls in the country as only 1 out of every 3 girls that graduate from 6th grade enter 7th grade.
Access to quality education is a human right, but in Guatemala it is limited. For girls, quality education is even further out of reach especially Indigenous girls living in rural areas and those living in poverty. The pandemic has disrupted an already weak education system and made the economic crisis more acute. Many parents have taken their children out of school to offset financial burdens, and the first ones to go are girls.
Consulting with educators, parents and adolescents and our local partner organizations, Girl Rising identified an opportunity to communicate with fathers to address the complicated education challenges in Guatemala, focusing in a small region, Sololá, that is very diverse and where we collaborate with four partners to learn from this whole process. Fathers play a critical role in deciding whether their daughters are in school. Many fathers have limited finances, and some think that school is not important for girls.
We built a campaign with messaging created through our collaborations with adolescents, parents, educators and other partners, targeting the fathers of girl students and program participants. The campaign is currently airing on local television, radio and featured on social media. The campaign aims to appeal to local fathers and speak about the importance of educating girls, combat gender stereotypes, and prioritize their daughters’ education when making financial decisions for the household. The campaign also features testimonials from fathers who are currently supporting their daughters’ education despite difficulties. The campaign includes portraits of fathers and their daughters in informative posters which are being shared in public spaces in the four communities of Sololá where we work. Later in February of 2023, we’ll hold in-person workshops for fathers, so they can share their thoughts and experiences around girls’ education so we can learn from this campaign and see what else we can contribute with.
Girl Rising has been working in Guatemala since June of 2018, alongside incredible partners organizations that continue to recognize education as a powerful tool to build better societies and wellbeing for all. We hope that this campaign will help change perspectives in the local communities on the importance of girls’ education and help fathers recognize the important role they play in all this. We believe that an important part of being a father means educating your children, especially daughters who face overwhelming gender-based barriers in the world. This is an open invitation for men to join us in advocating for girls’ right to education. I want to thank The Summit Foundation for supporting this campaign, and most importantly, the girls, adolescents, mothers, fathers, educators and women who have shared their time, ideas, words and dreams around girls' and women's education with us, and who continue to support girls in school.