national program is providing the most vulnerable indigenous Mayan girls and
young women in
Participants in Abriendo Oportunidades, which helps build the
skills of young indigenous girls ages 8–18 in rural Guatemalan communities.
Photo courtesy of the Nike Foundation.
Mayan girls are the country’s most
disadvantaged group, leading lives characterized by early marriage, limited
schooling, frequent childbearing, social isolation, and chronic poverty
(Hallman et al. 2006). Population Council research investigating access to
social programs determined that very few reach these girls (Estudio 1360 2008).
Building the health, economic, and social resources of this large, neglected
group is both a moral imperative and essential for reaching the Millennium
Development Goals in
To help break the poverty cycle and enable Guatemalan girls to reach their full potential, the Population Council, in collaboration with a range of local and international partners, launched a program, Abriendo Oportunidades, in 2004 to increase Mayan girls' social support networks, connect them with role models and mentors, build a base of critical life and leadership skills, and provide hands-on professional training and experience. The program has evolved and expanded in structure and content, and is now national in scope, with ambitious plans to become locally sustained and institutionalized.