A Day in the Life of Mayan Mam Girls and Women
Like children everywhere, these girls want to continue their education
What is life like for indigenous girls in rural Guatemala? To find out, we spent some time chatting with four young teenagers in Comitancillo about their daily lives and their hopes for the future. These best friends told us about their families – some with as many as eight siblings – and their everyday routines.
As with many children around the world, a typical day starts at 6 or 6:30 am to get ready, have breakfast and walk 30 minutes to school with brothers and sisters in tow. Like many schools in Canada, school starts at 8 am, but it wraps up much earlier – by 1 pm – with a 20-minute recess half way through. Afterwards, the girls go home to complete chores like fetching water, and often firewood, for their family. They try to do their homework before supper. And, if they have time, many enjoy playing basketball.
We also wanted to know what they want from the future. When asked, the girls were initially shy. But when their teacher explained the question in their native Mayan Mam, two of the girls said they wanted to be teachers and one a lawyer. They all want to continue their education at the secondary school level next year.
The lower secondary school is quite far from Comitancillo. But these girls are lucky to have one in their own community since rural areas often lack the school infrastructure that would allow children to complete their education close to home. In fact, some digging revealed that just 66% of children in rural Guatemala who have completed primary school will continue on to the lower secondary level. This compares with 86% of urban children. Overall, just 29% of 15-24 year olds in rural Guatemala have completed lower secondary school, compared with 57% of youth in urban areas.
And, making matters even worse, even when rural children do go to school, they are much less likely to be learning. Assessments reveal that reading proficiency and achievement in math and science are all lower for students from rural areas.
All this means that something must be done to ensure that girls like the ones we met have a chance to get a get a quality education. They should be able to become teachers and lawyers – or whatever interests them. And of course, we know that learning for its own sake is a worthwhile goal as educated women are healthier and have more say over their own life choices.
Our Mobile Learning Lab (MLL) is intended to address some of this disparity in learning opportunities by giving teachers and students better access to quality educational resources. You can read all about this in our previous blog and please keep a look out for upcoming blogs on schools we’re visiting in Guatemala and Nicaragua.
It was a delight to meet and get to know these wonderful girls just a bit!
A typical day for a Mayan Mam woman
For Mayan Mam women, a typical day is extremely busy looking after family and managing household tasks. Here’s a quick look at what we learned when visiting women in Comitancillo.
- Up at 5 am to start a fire and grind flour for tortillas for breakfast.
- Get water at the community well, make breakfast, attend to kids and husband as they get ready for school and work.
- Clean up after the meal.
- Feed the livestock.
- Search for firewood.
- Take livestock out for grazing and bring them back in.
- Darn or repair clothes.
- Walk down to the river in town to wash clothes, several times per week.
- Look after children when they return from school.
- Feed livestock again.
- Get water.
- Prepare corn and beans for the evening meal.
- Start fire and cook meal and serve it.
- Clean up.
- Look after children and get them to bed.
- Finish any other chores. Go to bed around 9 pm.
Of course, these women do all this and often have two or three young children still at home with them!
We were so happy to meet so many young people and to hear their stories. Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, our project in this area is bringing better learning materials to young people so that they have a better chance to get a quality education.
President and Founder, 60 million girls