STRENGTHENING LEADERSHIP AND EMPOWERING YOUTH | The Work of the Mojomayas in Alta Verapaz and Quiche Departments

The Mojomaya are a group of young adults who make up part of the National Organization of Guatemalan widows–CONAVIGUA. It is a social group of young indigenous people who make an impact locally, nationally and regionally in defense of individual and group rights of indigenous peoples, i.e. for girls, boys, teens, women, men and young adults. Mojomaya action is directed particularly towards human rights, sexual and reproductive rights, gender equality and equity work, reclaiming Maya world-vision and identity through participation and development.

Adolescent and youth have gotten involved in social processes/social movements for individual and group rights based on gains made by MOJOMAYA. Through MOJOMAYA’s achievements youths now perform leadership roles and act as decision-makers on Leaders’ Councils and Advisory Boards for Community Development. They work on defining methods for participation in programs and projects which will drive community development and municipal planning at the territorial level.

Based in the previously described conceptualization, CONAVIGUA and MOJOMAYA, in cooperation with Plan International, look for ways to create space for political empowerment and leadership development which allow for participation by girls and young women from indigenous communities; empowerment and leadership grounded in their own cultural identity, e.g. proposals related to individual and group rights like the “School for Political Empowerment and Leadership for Indigenous Girls and Young Women”. Through this school, the project promotes defense of their territory and their own bodies: Using gender equality as a tool for advocacy to influence, impact and to mitigate the problems which affect them.

The project encourages self-empowerment, critical-thinking and equality for girls, adolescents and young women from indigenous communities and active participation in political, social and culture life of their communities. Suh development strengthens them in a way that allows them to truly and effectively exercise their rights through the lens of gender and cultural relevance. And also helps with achieving the objectives of Goals for Sustainable Development (ODS), specifically the ODS 5 and the ODS 3 which deal with gender equality, empowerment of women and girls and reproductive health.

The project began with a first phase consciousness-raising and idea and behavior development around themes of gender equality for teens and young adults from 14-18 years of age by considering of new definitions of masculinity. The process was developed with 160 young people, young adults coming from RaxRuha, Chisec, Lanquin and San Pedro Carcha in the Department of Alta Verapaz, and from San Pedro Jocopilas, Chiche, Patzite and Joyabaj in the Quiche Department.

The project planned for development of 112 formative sessions for consciousness-raising and training (14 sessions in 8 municipalities) utilizing the methodology Women and Men, Makers of Change. The goal was to strengthen young people’s basic understanding and familiarity with the importance of creating more equal and equitable relationships between men and women. Such awareness is favorable for transforming power relationships based in violence, submission and imbalance of power. And it impacts and influences relationships at the local level which is the main objective of the project’s second phase.

Like the previous year’s activities, MOJOMAYAS developed inter-generational and cross-gender dialog; it created agendas for municipalities to prepare the population for the project’s second phase during which a transformative impact on gender will conclude the process in each municipality and department. All of this with the goal of creating favorable conditions towards inclusion of young people as participants in the political and decision-making process at local levels. For MOJOMAYAS these achievements in the project have been very satisfying. Here are some reflections and testimonials from youth from the municipalities:

Ana Floridalma Cucul Bol – Chisec, Alta Verapaz.

Participating in Mojomayas has been a great benefit to me. It has taught me to be a proud citizen of my country, and thereby overcoming my fears, likewise improving my skills and my knowledge. I have learned that stereotypes are not an impediment to achieving one’s dreams and desires. I have begun to learn how to have better self-esteem, how to like myself and to accept who I am. Thanks to Mojomayas! for helping me in my life, for advice, for motivation, for the self-love I now feel, for more hope that I can go forward, for teaching me how to better express myself, to be clear, effective, precise, honest, positive, responsible and constructive, and for teaching me to communicate more assertively without becoming aggressive. I am grateful for all of this which I have received.

Fidelia Sebastiana Caal Poo – Chicanchiu, Lanquin, Alta Verapaz.

I want to thank MOJOMAYAS and Plan International for the opportunity to develop ourselves in new ways. I, Fidelia, feel great pleasure and happiness because I belong to the movement and because of how it is influencing my personal development. When I began the first activities, the early workshops, I didn’t know much about the topics. But thanks to this opportunity, I have learned. Now I know how to say, “Enough!” and recognize my rights as a young Mayan woman. We young women have rights!! I am grateful because it opens up avenues to youth. Happy, because I have been participating for two years now in the School for Empowerment. Thanks for the exchange of experiences with other young people from other places. And I beg that this opportunity is made permanently available and that they continue to support us throughout our personal development.

Julia María Ventura Chitic, Laguna Seca I, Chiché, Quiché.

“Mojomayas was a huge support for me and my family ever since I began my training with Mojomayas. From the 18 topics we looked at and discussed I learned to value myself, to respect myself and to care for myself. They also talked with us about how to improve ourselves by becoming good leaders of our communities. One must be proud and confident to be a leader and although there will be setbacks, they can be overcome. Distractions caused her to stumble, violence was used as a weapon, the entrepreneur built on top of her, the weary farm worker used her as a chair and for children she was a toy. David killed Goliath and Michelangelo created a beautiful sculpture. In every case the difference was not the object, rather the man. There is no boulder in your path that you can not take advantage of for your own development.”

Agustina Aura Marina Tiu Carrillo – de la Comunidad Parraxamolo, Patzité, Quiché.

“Since I came to know MOJOMAYAS my life has changed for the better. I have developed in areas that are very useful. I’ve learned about my rights, definitely that has been of great help for many young people. And I am deeply grateful for that. In the workshops I learned that as a woman I have the same rights as men. I have shared these ideas with my classmates so that they can become better people. Most young men are male-centered, misogynists. We young women can make a change with the information we are learning. I am grateful to Mojomayas and Plan International for taking us into account and making us better people . . . every day. Thank you all.