by Hannah Perkins and Marta Ixtuc
The United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is recognized annually on August 9th. “Women are given little opportunity for development, but we have potential,” says Sebastiana, a Guatemalan Friendship Bridge client. “So, I thank Friendship Bridge for having me as a client. Now, I not only have capital to work with, but I also have knowledge. I have learned a lot during the monthly trainings, especially in the management of money, budgeting, health, and other topics.”
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples brings awareness to the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues including human rights, the environment, health, education, and economic and social development. Mastering the art of weaving at just 12 years old and marrying by 15 years old, Sabastiana only attended school up to the first grade. After finding Friendship Bridge four years ago, she obtained microloans and educational training. Sabastiana now manages a traditional textile shop that her daughters run, a “nixtamal” (corn cleaning/grinding mill), and an animal husbandry business (chickens, pigs, and turkeys). Through the opportunities Friendship Bridge creates she has also been able to provide education for her children up to the sixth grade.
Friendship Bridge is a registered 501©(3) nonprofit organization that empowers impoverished Guatemalan women to create a better future for themselves, their children and their communities through microfinance, education, and health services. Friendship Bridge works primarily with indigenous populations in rural areas where the rate of poverty in Guatemala is the highest. Half of Guatemalan children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than 60% of indigenous women are illiterate.
Why focus on women like Sabastiana? Globally speaking, women make up 70% of the world’s poor, and typically invest up to 90% of their income in their families and communities. Sabastiana’s time working with Friendship Bridge has empowered her to expand her business effectively, while investing in her family’s well-being by sending them to school and providing a healthy living environment. Investing in women and indigenous populations around the world improves universal issues and helps close the gap on formal recognition and understanding of current policies.
Hannah Perkins, Friendship Bridge Communications Intern, hails from Maine and recently graduated from Susquehanna University with a degree in Communications, Multimedia-Broadcast and a minor in Women’s Studies.
Marta Julia Ixtuc is the Communications Coordinator in Guatemala. Based in Sololá, she continues seeking to support the development of Guatemalan women in search of their own ways out of poverty.