Last week, 15-year-old Emelin from Guatemala spoke to the United Nations about her efforts to improve health and education for women in her rural community. When she first approached the mayor of her town two years ago and asked him to find ways to help girls stay in school and access better healthcare, he laughed and said Emelin was wasting his time.
Emelin didn’t think it was a waste of time, and neither do we.
Emelin and her friend Elba began to work with the organization Let Girls Lead, where they were taught about self-esteem, human rights and community organizing. They used these skills to bring positive change to their village.
Eventually, their mayor couldn’t help but pay attention and sign legislation to fund education and healthcare efforts for girls.
We here at Friendship Bridge also believe education and healthcare are foundational to the empowerment of women and girls. One way we promote this is through our CrediEscolar school loans. This loan product provides mothers with quick loan capital to pay for any costs associated with their children’s education – such as tuition, uniforms, or school supplies. Our social performance measures have shown that the longer a woman is a client of Friendship Bridge, the more likely she is to enroll in the program, thereby keeping her children in school.
In addition to offering our clients solutions for their children’s education, we also provide non-formal education to the more than 22,000 women we serve. This education is delivered through our hardworking loan officers. Our non-formal adult education program helps our clients build their confidence as they learn practical life skills such as maintaining healthier households and building stronger businesses. We also have an advanced education program that trains women to diversify their revenue by introducing new products into their businesses.
Like Emelin, we recognize a gap in healthcare services for women in Guatemala. We’re responding by piloting a new health services project this year. Our market research found that Guatemalan women often lack access to health information and don’t trust healthcare professionals. We’re partnering with Maya Health Alliance to provide our clients with important health information and bring quality and culturally sensitive/appropriate healthcare directly to their communities through mobile health clinics. These services will always be provided by female medical staff and in the Mayan dialect of the client.
We applaud Emelin for her boldness to promote change for girls in Guatemala. Our hope is that the combined efforts toward empowerment of women and girls in Guatemala will spark transformative social change.