Abriendo Oportunidades provides the most vulnerable Guatemalan girls with skills and support to improve their lives.
The vast majority of Mayans in Guatemala are poor. Most live in isolated rural areas with limited access to water, sanitation, passable roads, schooling, and health care. Mayan girls are particularly disadvantaged. They generally marry early and drop out of school.
The Population Council, in collaboration with local and international partners, launched Abriendo Oportunidades in 2004. The program increases Mayan girls' social support networks, connects them with role models and mentors, builds a base of critical life and leadership skills, and provides hands-on professional training and experience.
Abriendo Oportunidades makes critical investments in girls aged 8–18 to help them successfully navigate adolescent transitions. The program engages community leaders and trains girls to run community girls’ clubs, safe spaces where they learn practical skills and assume leadership roles.
The program began in a handful of rural communities and has since expanded nationwide. The Council trains professionals from local governments and organizations in program planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation to ensure high-quality programs for vulnerable adolescent girls. Clubs run through Abriendo Oportunidades are connected through the Guatemalan Indigenous Girls Resource and Empowerment Network (GIGREN), a platform that strengthens the ability of indigenous girls to advocate for their needs and rights at the community and national levels.
The program has expanded to include tutoring and a weekly educational radio program in Mayan languages (which is especially useful for girls who are pregnant or who are already mothers and cannot attend school.) The Abriendo Oportunidades curriculum guide has been standardized and is now being adapted for boys and for girls in urban areas.
Since 2004, more than 6,000 girls, 100 youth leaders, and 45 interns have been trained and supported by the program. Countless others have benefited from the effects of the program in their communities or through listening to the radio show.
A 2007 program evaluation showed that:
- 100% of Abriendo girl leaders had completed the sixth grade, compared with 82% nationally.
- 97% of Abriendo girl leaders remained childless during the program cycle, compared with the national average of 78% for girls their age.
- 94% of Abriendo girl leaders reported experiencing greater autonomy and feeling more comfortable expressing their opinions.
- 88% of girl leaders opened a bank account.
- 44% had obtained paid employment by the end of the program.
The program is now being expanded to other Latin American countries. In addition, a randomized controlled trial will measure the impact of Abriendo Oportunidades on school attendance and retention.