Elena and Heidy

Champions of Girls Education in Rural Guatemala

Publication info

Crisálida Susana (Susy) Menchú Tacam, CARE Guatemala

Elena Caba Cunay believes in girls’ education and in ensuring that girls remain in school and not married early -- and teaches her students and many parents in her community that very idea. She even works with parents to apply the same criteria for their sons, and not only just for their daughters, to make a better life for whole families.

Her co-teacher, Heidy Pu agrees and is a proponent in the power of education access. “I believe everyone can learn, everyone is valuable and can always learn more. Parents who are lucky enough to have their daughters participate in the [Qach’umilal] project are appreciative and see a real difference in what they are learning, and what their daughters are learning too.”

The two work as administrators for Qach’umilal, working closely with several girls in communities across the rural western highlands of Guatemala. Qach’umilal helps build self-esteem in young girls in a region where needs are extreme, and young girls often end their educations at the end of middle school.

Heidy stresses the importance of self-esteem, and building young girl’s self-worth to their futures. “I remember, there was a young girl who, months ago, who seemed to be shy and withdrawn – more than the other students. Then, after a couple of months, I noticed a change - after she participated in the program,” explained Elena, “I asked her mother, ‘well, what happened?’ And her mother said ‘well, thanks to you, thanks to the program, thank you for your training, I have been able to learn about self-esteem and taking care of myself, and taking care of my daughter, and now, I we are both applying this knowledge.”

Qach’umilal classes and workshops encourage girls to stay in school and parents to actively participate in their daughters’ schools and the learning process. This helps whole communities become engaged in education.

Qach’Umilal is being implemented to improve the quality of these girls’ lives, by promoting various activities that will help change the way the girls think about themselves and other girls and women.

Because Heidy’s mother wasn’t able to complete her studies, she was motivated to be a teacher. She believes that by teaching parents, teaching children, she is able to make a difference in her community. 

“People usually should exchange knowledge because that’s the only way they are going to grow. Qach’umilal is not implemented in every school, so the parents who are lucky to have their daughters in the Qach’umilal project are grateful and they appreciate what their daughters are learning and what they are learning too.” 

Heidy Antoiniee Po Muz and Juliana Elence “Elena” Caba Cunay are Qu'ach Umilal program facilitators.