Abriendo Oportunidades

The Population Council
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This national program is providing the most vulnerable indigenous Mayan girls and young women in Guatemala with personal and professional development skills, mentorship, and leadership opportunities.

Participants in Abriendo Oportunidades, which helps build the skills of young indigenous girls ages 8–18 in rural Guatemalan communities.
Guatemala’s population is poorer, less educated, faster growing, and more ethnically diverse than most others in Latin America (Dries-Daffner et al. 2007). The country’s fertility and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the region (Figueroa 2006). Nearly half of the Guatemalan population is indigenous, and more than 20 Mayan groups live in isolated rural areas with limited access to basic services such as water, sanitation, passable roads, schooling, and health care. Seventy-five percent of Mayans live in poverty (INE 2008).

Mayan girls are the country’s most disadvantaged group, leading lives characterized by early marriage, limited schooling, frequent childbearing, social isolation, and chronic poverty (Hallman et al. 2006). Population Council research investigating access to social programs determined that very few reach these girls (Estudio 1360 2008). Building the health, economic, and social resources of this large, neglected group is both a moral imperative and essential for reaching the Millennium Development Goals in Guatemala.

To help break the poverty cycle and enable Guatemalan girls to reach their full potential, the Population Council, in collaboration with a range of local and international partners, launched a program, Abriendo Oportunidades, in 2004 to increase Mayan girls' social support networks, connect them with role models and mentors, build a base of critical life and leadership skills, and provide hands-on professional training and experience. The program has evolved and expanded in structure and content, and is now national in scope, with ambitious plans to become locally sustained and institutionalized


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Population Council
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