Guatemala, the “land of the forests” is an alive and ancestral country whose history dates from four thousand years ago when the Mayan civilization emerged. Its legacy is still evident in its extraordinary cultural richness, which is reflected in the colorful handicraft markets and regional costumes, its hospitality, and the beauty of the landscapes that frame the volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and mountains. Today 21 different ethnic groups of Mayan, Ladinos, Garifunas, and Xincas have all contributed to Guatemalan customs and traditions. The handicrafts are an expression of the Guatemalan culture: handmade, colorful textiles, carved wood, silver, jade jewelry, candles, pottery, blown glass, leather articles, and many more handicrafts that characterize the cultural diversity of this small, but wonderful country.
With a population of 15.08 million, Guatemala is one of the most unequal countries in the world, in which 53 percent of the population live in poverty, and 13 percent in extreme poverty. Guatemala ranks 133 out of 187 in the 2012 United Nations Human Development Index. Poverty is widespread and severe, affecting mostly groups indigenous women, girls and boys living in the highlands and the “dry corridor” (a semi-arid zone with periods of droughts, degraded soils and low agricultural yields). All of Guatemala's social indicators reflect this widespread poverty and severe inequality. For example, literacy rates are dismal, and gross school enrollment rates are low – 77 percent for primary school and dropping drastically thereafter. In health, the infant mortality rate is 55 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 110 per 100,000 live births.
of the population in Guatemala live in poverty.
different ethnic groups
From Guatemala: Meet the Artisans
Located in Panajachel, Sololá, Guatemala, Maya Traditions has been dedicated to connecting indigenous, female Maya backstrap weaver artisans and their families to national and international markets since 1996. Maya Traditions ensures that the culture of these artisans is preserved and seen across all of their products. By promoting a fair trade model, their main goal is to help these artisan families and their communities work towards a better lifestyle. They provide various social programs in youth education, community health, and artisan development. Today, Maya Traditions partners with eight self-governed cooperatives in six rural villages and over 100 skilled female artisans who practice many different artisan techniques.
Mayan Hands, founded in 1989, partners with approximately 200 female weavers across different communities around the western and northern highlands of Guatemala. Most of the female artisans have no more than a third grade education, are illiterate, and speak native languages rather than Spanish. Fieldworkers of Mayan Hands are committed to and involved in their relationship with these women, which enables a positive fair trade experience for both groups. Their products are made with the same techniques used to make the women’s blouses called huipiles, and the designs are also based on US market trends, thus making Mayan Hands’ a combination of the traditional and the modern. Your purchase allows these talented weavers to earn an income to feed their families and send their children to school, while preserving their cultural traditions.
Precious Hands works closely with artisans in Guatemala to help design, produce, market and sell their handmade goods. Precious Hands commits part of its profits to their micro-loan program, which provides long-lasting and sustainable assistance to individuals in the communities where their artisans live and work. Through the program, individuals can earn fair wages, grow their businesses, and prosper, thus improving their lives and the lives of their children.
ProTeje works as a support program for more than 80 women weavers in communities throughout Guatemala. They are committed to the preservation of backstrap loom weaving. This incredible technique, traditionally practiced by women, has been passed down through generations but is becoming less common over time. Most of the women working with ProTeje are between 40 to 50 years old. Some work with their mothers and daughters, representing three generations of women committed to preserving this traditional technique. The weavers meet once a month and receive information and materials from ProTeje. ProTeje, in turn, provides these women with a source of income, which allows them to take care of their families and provide their children with access to a higher quality of education.
Wakami fosters economic initiatives in rural communities in Guatemala through fair trade with the mission to create income-generating opportunities that transform lives. The organization serves as a bridge, connecting artisans in impoverished, remote areas with larger marketplaces. Ninety percent of the 550 artisans are women who are able to work from home while caring for their families. Wakami seeks to provide a support network and makes available organic gardens, solar energy supplies and water filters, as well as business training programs for their artisan partners.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION
As a country that has signed and ratified numerous human rights treaties, Guatemala has binding obligations under various domestic, regional and international law standards that require them to protect against gender-based violence. However, human rights abuses persist, including widespread institutional corruption, particularly in the police and judicial sectors; police and military involvement in serious crimes, including unlawful killings, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and extortion; violence against women; discrimination and abuse of persons with disabilities; sexual harassment and discrimination against women; child abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons. Other problems included marginalization of indigenous communities and ineffective demarcation of their lands; discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; and ineffective enforcement of labor and child labor laws; etc.
Guatemalan indigenous women and girls, women in prisons and women working in sweatshops face high rates of violence and discrimination. Although the Guatemalan labor code protects women workers from discrimination at work, the law is rarely enforced in the maquila sector. Meanwhile, women and girls working in private households do not have adequate legal protection, and are frequently subject to sexual assault and other abuses by their employers. Discrimination against indigenous women is intersectional – indigenous people as a whole face discrimination, and then again there are elements of society that specifically target women. More often than not, the perpetrators of these crimes walk free.