Diakonia - People change the world
Herlinda Caal gained new knowledge about women's rights and gender equality through Nuevos Horizontes' project. And now, she has found her calling: to improve the situation of indigenous women in Guatemala.

Guatemala: Indigenous women have learnt their rights

The rights of indigenous people in Guatemala are limited. In some societies over 90 percent of the women are illiterate. But via a project of Nuevos Horizontes, Herlinda Caal have learned her rights.

8/13/2013 Publisher: Julle Bergenholtz

Graduated despite difficulties

Herlinda Caal is a 25 years old girl with indigenous roots - which stands for approximately 60 per cent of the Guatemalan population. She has, along with most other indigenous women in Guatemala, faced difficulties. When she was 16 she wanted to study, but her family insisted that she should get married instead. Eventually, she made the important and difficult decision to graduate from high school on her own.

"I felt that studying and working was important for my ability to change my life. I did not want my life to be become the same as most other women’s were," says Herlinda.

Results of the project: Through the project, the participating women have had the opportunity to actively participate in the society, thereby being a part of the decisions that affect their lives. They have also received tools that will help them analyze and make decisions that match their own opinions and that are favorable to women’s development in society.

Increasing the political knowledge

After graduating, Herlinda took part in a training project held by the organization Nuevos Horizontes, which Diakonia supports. Through the project, Herlinda and the other participants learned how the political system of Guatemala works, and how she as an indigenous woman could be a part of it. They were also given the tools to involve themselves in the election process held in Guatemala in 2011, and through it advocate for their rights as citizens, women and indigenous people.

Historic document promoting women

During the election campaign, Herlinda and the other women engaged in the project presented a document to the mayoral candidates, where they proposed how to improve the regional women’s office and how to implement decisions favorable to women’s development. This was a historic event, since organized women had never directly presented a proposition to election candidates before.

The initiative was a great success, as the women convinced the candidates and the regional government to support the cause. Their engagement therefore enabled them to affect future decision makers, and it also showed them a concrete way of using what they had learnt in theory in reality.

Dedicated to improving women’s rights

Today, Herlinda is the president of Nuevos Horizontes. The project and the outgoing activities she took part in have had a strong impact on her, personally and professionally. Now she works with improving the situation and rights of indigenous women, and hopes that her work will be beneficial for the women living in her village.

"I want to dedicate myself to this cause first, and when I am about 28 years or older, I want to get married. It is difficult, but I feel that I am doing the right thing", Herlinda says.