The Population Council’s activities in Guatemala began in 1985 with the USAID-funded operations research and technical assistance project in Latin America and the Caribbean (INOPAL). The Council opened an office in Guatemala in 1992, with the aim of improving the health and well-being of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations.
The Council is recognized in Guatemala for developing and refining non-formal educational opportunities for rural adolescent girls through the Abriendo Oportunidades program. In 2011, the Abriendo Oportunidades was awarded the UNFPA medal for its work toward the empowerment and education of Mayan girls and adolescents. The Council has also helped raise the profile of Mayan girls in the development of policies for young people at the national and municipal level.
In the past, the Council has supported and advised the Ministry of Health in producing the Guide for Assisting in Vertical Birth, including updating images for the guide to make them more culturally appropriate. Vertical birth, or giving birth from an upright position, is common among Mayan women in Guatemala. We have prepared culturally pertinent sexual and reproductive health advocacy materials for women’s organizations. We have designed and coordinated internships with partner organizations to train young indigenous women, provide them with life skills and livelihoods. We have supported grassroots women organizations to achieve sustainable change and equip them with research abilities for the future. And we are analyzing the ways in which indigenous peoples adapt to climate change and poverty.