Stories of Change
Lucia (top), Juana and Catarina (middle) and María Francisca (bottom) at their businesses. Photos: Bethany Beachum
CWS and CIEDEG helps support 700 members of local indigenous associations in Guatemala.
Business training supports women, families, neighbors and communities in Guatemala
In much of Guatemala, men and women are treated very differently, particularly in indigenous communities. Women don’t share their opinions in public meetings, and they are responsible for maintaining their households but not earning income. They have very little power.
With generous support provided by Foods Resource Bank, CWS and partner CIEDEG are working to provide women with more opportunities to provide for their families, earn income and have their voices heard. In 2014, CIEDEG held a business training workshop for indigenous women so that they could open additional channels of income for their families and become more self-sufficient. The workshop covered marketing, calculating direct costs and indirect costs, investing and the characteristics of entrepreneurs. There was also a “context analysis” portion of the training where the women focused on their own communities: what needs are there in my community? What type of business generates profit here?
Three years later, that training has been the bedrock of new businesses and brighter futures for the participants. Lucía Lòpez Lòpez lives and has her business in the community of Toj Mech in the region of Quetzaltenango. She opened a store a year ago with her sister as her business partner. The women invested in shelving and converted the front space of their home into a convenience store that sells refreshments and household products. They recently expanded the store to include a section for school materials like pens, paper and pencils.
Six months ago, Juana, Catarina and Santa Lopez Garcia – sisters who also live in Toj Mech – opened a restaurant. Juana participated in that CIEDEG training, and she has put into practice the skills that she learned. The restaurant is on a corner of the central street in Toj Mech and serves a variety of meals and snacks that the women make. Juana tries new recipes from the internet for their restaurant, which they have named Antojitos Lopez.
María Francisca Pérez Aguilar is also running a thriving small business. She was not part of the CIEDEG training, but she received her training from someone who was. This new information and skill-building ripple out into the community. María Francisca lives in the town of El Rincon and is a single mother of five children. She makes and sells soap and hair gel. Most of her clients are neighbors who hear about her products by word of mouth, but recently a beauty salon began to stock her hair gels. She started experimenting with hair gel because it is much faster to make and sells for more money than the soap. The shop income is vital for her family; she has used her earnings to buy pigs and then sell them a few months later for profit and a plot of land where she is growing vegetables from seeds also provided by CIEDEG.
The women that we have talked to report that they use their earnings to pay for expenses so their children can go to school and grow up healthy and strong. The impact of each training increases exponentially as it begins to lift up women, their families, their neighbors and whole communities.