Alta Verapaz, Guatemala has some of the worst poverty and inequality in Latin America – and it is increasing for Indigenous women and youth.
Alta Verapaz is the poorest area of Guatemala, with 83 per cent of the population living in poverty and 54% living in extreme poverty. It is predominantly rural and has an almost exclusively Indigenous population. Youth between the ages of 15 to 29 years of age represent just over a quarter of the population and two thirds of the youth are Indigenous.
Women's participation in the Alta Verapaz economy is extremely low: of the 37 per cent of the population that is economically active, only seven per cent are women.
Women who are unemployed have been shown to suffer much higher rates of violence compared to women who are employed, and the rate of domestic violence and femicide in Alta Verapaz is one of the highest in the country. Access to employment is made more difficult by the fact that 82 per cent of men believe that their spouses must ask for permission to participate in activities outside the home, including working.
The government of Guatemala has established a national policy to support women's economic development, with a special focus on Indigenous women, but it is not being implemented in Alta Verapaz. Women and youth – particularly those from Indigenous communities – remain at a significant disadvantage due to a lack of training and education.
There are also very few economic opportunities for rural Indigenous youth, leading many to migrate out of the area in search of work or to turn to crime as a source of income. Young Indigenous women have even fewer opportunities than the young men and lack access to many basic services. Many women think they will only have a future if they marry.
5 years (2019-2024)
This project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, and the generous Canadian public.
What are we doing?
Increasing awareness and fostering positive attitudes and behaviours in support of economic empowerment and human rights for Indigenous women and youth.
Empowering Indigenous women and youth to start socially and environmentally responsible small businesses, as well as increasing their access to ethical markets.
Working with women's rights organizations and other groups to influence policies and programs that support Indigenous women's economic empowerment and human rights.
What do we hope to achieve?
Oxfam will contribute to the creation of a functioning green economy for small-scale enterprises in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. We will support the development of sustainable business practices for small-scale enterprises headed by Indigenous women and youth. By helping these enterprises to grow and prosper, we will increase social, economic and political engagement across a wide range of sectors on the rights, participation and leadership of Indigenous women and youth. As a core part of the program, we will conduct training for community leaders and community members on women's rights and, specifically, the right of all women to live a life free of violence.
Learn more about what we're achieving through Camino Verde, in close collaboration with Oxfam in Guatemala and five local partner organizations.