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Expanding Possibilities for Women Entrepreneurs in Guatemala
Published 06/07/2022 by Global Communities
By Jessica Ayala
Just over a year ago, Sucely Rocsana Reyes Molina never would have imagined that she would own a flourishing formal dairy business with so many opportunities in the market.
Today, the 30-year-old single mother has multiple people who help her deliver 15 types of cheeses and creams, expanding her business well outside of her community and providing for her 5-year-old son and extended family.
“I dreamed of making high-quality, high-end products, but neither my budget nor my accessibility allowed me to do so. Once I was in [Project META], it became very accessible,” said Sucely, who lives in a rural community located just outside of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where the main sources of income are livestock and agriculture.
From February 2021 to March 2022, Project META, a privately funded pilot program implemented by Global Communities, offered resources and education to over 150 rural Guatemalan women with the goal of strengthening their agricultural skills, developing greater access to local markets and generating sustainable sources of income.
After an initial gender-focused needs and market assessment was completed, the project team identified opportunities for women from Global Communities’ signature Women Empowered Initiative and other local programs from 16 communities in the Chiantla and Malacatancito municipalities of Huehuetenango.
As the most populous country in Central America, Guatemala faces a combination of challenges that can create barriers for women, including food insecurity, child malnutrition, low literacy rates and health crises. Because families in the Western Highlands are in part producers and consumers of their own food, they are reliant on both agricultural and non-agricultural activities to survive and can be heavily impacted by cyclical climatic shocks and natural disasters.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits all solution to overcoming poverty, Global Communities combined local ingenuity with global insights to build Project META as a pathway for women to build a vibrant future of their own design.
The project supported new and growing women entrepreneurs like Sucely in business management, technical productive skills, and credit and financing with a focus on their existing skillsets and expertise. Individualized work plans were created for every participant, and they had access to project mentors through texting and calling, virtual and face-to-face sessions, learning tours and group workshops.
“I learned to make many types of cheeses that I wanted and now my goal is to be a businesswoman. I currently produce a total of about 15 products,” Sucely said. “When I joined the project I started with the trainings, so what the project did was to actually give me a brand. Now I have a business identity and I am what they call an empowered woman.”
Project META’s future-forward approach encouraged every participant to pursue the entrepreneurial activities that she had existing experience and interest in, which reduced the possibility of saturation in the market and competition with each other.
From advancing the accounting skills needed to manage sales to experimenting with growing techniques to improve produce quality, each woman received a unique work plan and individualized mentorship to support their progress.
Gender gaps remain in nearly all areas of Guatemalan life, restricting the growth of women’s businesses and impacting their ability to participate in the local economy. Global Communities partnered with Promundo to adapt the Journeys of Transformation gender-transformative approach for women and their male partners participating in women´s economic empowerment projects such Project META.
Global Communities invited women and men to attend a series of facilitated group discussions that challenge harmful gender attitudes and behaviors and provide opportunities to redefine what it means to be a supportive partner. Participants discussed goal setting, sharing caregiving duties, the importance of making decisions together and how to plan their family budgets.
Hipolito Ramos, a husband of a project participant, has taken what he learned from Project META to heart.
“It is no longer that I am in charge and what I say has to be done, but we talk to each other and do things in the way that works best for both of us,” he explained.
The impacts of Project META have been seen beyond the success of each woman’s business. Couples reported improved communication, more equitable distribution of household chores, an increase in shared decision-making and renewed respect for each other’s contributions.
Drawing on nearly a decade of experience promoting women’s economic empowerment through Women Empowered, Global Communities has witnessed the potential that women have when they have control over their own futures, are valued as leaders and have access to the resources needed to thrive.
“Project META is a great opportunity to dignify and elevate the work of women in alliance with themselves,” shared Mabel Bejarano, Technical Advisor for Savings Groups and Women’s Empowerment at Global Communities. “It is also an opportunity to broaden their vision as entrepreneurs and to strengthen the foundations for the future of their target businesses.”
Across all programs, Global Communities integrates strategies to put resources and decision-making into women’s hands and tackle social norms, structural barriers and gender-based discrimination that limit choices and freedom for women and girls.
“For me, [Project META] is a complete success. Global Communities has been working for several years on the empowerment of women and they are now coming out of a nine-month cycle of training and working hand-in-hand towards their goals,” said Pascale Wagner, Global Communities’ Country Director in Guatemala. “They leave more empowered, and they leave with an understanding of what is required of them, of the resources they have, inside and out.”
Partnering with families, including men and boys, as well as communities and leaders, is critical to challenging harmful attitudes and practices and bringing about sustainable change. This includes community-based projects to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
Global Communities is committed to expanding possibilities for women through programs like Project META so they have access to the education, resources and partnerships they need to generate income and build financial resilience.
This content is part of Future Forward, a thought leadership and storytelling series on how Global Communities is driving change to save lives, advance equity and secure strong futures. To learn more, visit globalcommunities.org/futureforward.