Vilma is an active member of her community the Western Highlands of Guatemala. But that wasn’t always the case.
Her parents were alcoholics – they seemed to care more about their next drink than her wellbeing. She didn’t have a strong support system, wasn’t going to school regularly, and didn’t think know what the future would bring.
She knew her life was headed in a bad direction.
Unfortunately, Vilma’s situation isn’t unique. Guatemala is still experiencing the impact of a 36-year civil conflict, which destroyed support systems and led to increased discrimination against indigenous groups such as the Mayans. Young girls are raised to do all the chores in the household, so they continue this pattern as they reach adulthood and teach the same to their daughters and sons.
Adolescent girls don’t get to be children – they go right into adulthood.
One day a friend told Vilma about the Guatemalan Parliament for Childhood and Adolescence, a program supported by Girl Up. Established in 2003 to ensure the rights of children to participate in decisions that affect their life, the organization is a space for all children and adolescents of any ethnicity to participate and share their ideas, experiences, cultures, knowledge, reality, and problems. What’s more, they can propose solutions.
Vilma signed right up. She loves having the opportunity for her voice to be heard.
During one meeting, Vilma drew a picture of a girl who is blindfolded. She said that was how she felt before entering the program. But after learning to read and getting information about her rights, Vilma felt as if the blindfold has been removed. Now, she understands the power she has as an active member of the community.
And she’s ready to take on the world.