Within Guatemala’s strongly patriarchal society, girls and women occupy an inferior social status to men. Gender-based violence, exclusion and discrimination, particularly against indigenous women and girls, remain widespread.
Women and girls face unacceptably high levels of domestic and sexual violence, trafficking, exploitation and femicide (the killing of a woman or girl because of her gender). Since 2013, over 750 women have died from gender-based violence. Four out of ten girls have reported experiencing a form of sexual violence and according to UNICEF, 88 percent of crimes committed against children- including sexual abuse, rape and murder- go unpunished.
Support is difficult to come by for female victims of violence due to family pressure and the reluctance or inability of weak state institutions to intervene. This further entrenches a culture of impunity where perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.
For many girls and women in Guatemala, particularly those from indigenous and rural communities, there is limited access, if any, to health and education services. There is a high prevalence of teenage pregnancy and child marriage. More than 4,000 girls aged between 10 and 14 give birth every year, according to the UN, which also puts the illiteracy rate among indigenous women in 2011 as 48 percent compared with 19 percent for non-indigenous women.
COINCIDIR was founded in 2010 in Guatemala with a goal to transform girls’ lives by boosting inclusion in their community. The key to the organisation’s success is in its building of grassroots movements to support its programmes.
COINCIDIR works in Chimaltenango, Baja Verapaz and Jalapa states and involves girls at all levels of the organisation, from running activities to strategic planning. It promotes political and social inclusion by mobilising adolescent girls to advocate to local government officials on access to education. It organises community events and uses theatre, art and music to deliver its message. As a result, some municipalities have increased the percentage of resources allocated to the education of girls and adolescents.
COINCIDIR has created safe spaces where girls can meet, exchange ideas and take part in leisure activities. It also provides girls with information on sexual and reproductive health. The organisation works to improve enrolment, retention and attainment in schools by engaging community members, teachers and government officials.
COINCIDIR has had a strong impact in the communities it serves. Rates of violence against girls have dropped by 20 percent. Local authorities have started to understand and respond to the need for girls’ inclusion. School enrolment has increased from 50 percent to 74 percent.