Internationally, March 8 of each year represents an important date for each and every woman in society, International Women’s Day. However, more than a day of celebration, congratulations or giving flowers or chocolates, March 8 is a day to commemorate, remember and act in the search for true gender equality. As women, we need the congratulations we receive on this special day to become real actions that promote that all women achieve a dignified life, free of violence and with access to the same opportunities as men.
Hearing congratulations for being a woman in a country like Guatemala, which is ranked 113th out of 146 countries worldwide and last in the region in terms of gender equality, is something that needs to be improved. In Guatemala, we need to make being a woman a synonym of pride and dignity and not a limiting factor in our integral development due to inequality.
Guatemala stands out as one of the countries with the lowest economic participation of women (117th place) and the lowest female political participation (119th place) (World Economic Forum, 2022). In addition, UN (2017) notes that the wage gap between Guatemalan women and men is 32%. That is, in Guatemala for every Q100 a man earns, a woman earns Q68, working an average of 13 hours a day, while men work 11. A situation that mainly affects migrant, indigenous, rural women and young women. Only 37% of Guatemalan women participate in the formal labor market (in contrast to 85% of men); only 27% run their own business and only 28% have access to financial markets (in contrast to 66% of men (USAID, 2023).
So, as women we ask ourselves, is it really something to congratulate being a woman in Guatemala, and can we transform these congratulations into sustainable and impactful actions for women?
At Habitat for Humanity Guatemala (HFHG), we faithfully believe that support for women should be reflected in actions. Therefore, we seek and carry out projects that aim to provide the female empowerment that is needed not only for the benefit of women but also as a boost for the integral development of society as a whole.
Currently, women represent 53% of the beneficiaries of HPHG programs (HPHG, 2020). Such as the Revolving Fund for Humanity program, which provides financial support for the construction of housing solutions. As well as in projects focused on entrepreneurship and income improvement, such as the poultry farms in Morales, Izabal, implemented in 2020 and 2021, which allowed them to have a livelihood for self-consumption and sale.
Likewise, HFHG through the regional Habitat for Humanity and FICEM project called: “100 Thousand Floors to Play On” seeks to replace dirt floors with concrete floors from 2023 to 2025, mainly supporting Guatemalan families where women are the head of household and with children under 6 years of age, older adults, and/or people with disabilities.
Through support in the construction, training and delivery of housing solutions such as wood-saving stoves, latrines, water purification filters and rainwater harvesters, we promote Guatemalan women’s access to dignified, healthy and safe water, hygiene and sanitation solutions. With wood-saving stoves, smoke inhalation is reduced due to the practice of cooking over an open fire, which affects the health mainly of women and young children who spend the most time in the kitchen (HFHG, 2023). This reduces respiratory illnesses by up to 81%. Water filters and rainwater harvesters improve regular access to safe drinking water for human consumption and have a positive impact on the reduction of time spent collecting water, which is usually done by women in the household and to which, in some cases, they dedicate up to 4 or 5 hours a day, allowing them to have time to devote to other tasks such as starting their own business or studying. Finally, through adequate latrines, the lack of safe water and sanitation facilities, the practice of open defecation and one of the main causes of school dropout mainly in women when girls begin menstruation are combated (Adukia, 2016).
That is why, instead of congratulating them on this important date, today HFHG tells Guatemalan women that we will continue with our commitment to develop innovative, sustainable and high impact housing projects that allow all women to empower themselves and have access to a more dignified life. We know that an important step in the quest for Guatemala’s integral development is promoting and acting to improve the current development of Guatemalan women, since we cannot advance as a country when 51% of our population continues to live in conditions of inequality and insecurity.
Written by: Daniela Ramirez, International Resource Development Coordinator.
Adukia, A. (2016). Sanitation and Education. Chicago: University of Chicago.
Hábitat para la Humanidad Guatemala. (2020). Memoria de labores: 2019. Guatemala.
Habitat para la Humanidad Guatemala. (2023). Hábitat para la Humanidad Guatemala. Obtenido de https://www.habitatguate.org/about-us/products/
ICEFI. (2021). Mujeres De Guatemala: Un análisis de sus condiciones económicas y sociales. Guatemala: ICEFI.
Naciones Unidas en Guatemala. (8 de marzo de 2017). Comunicado de prensa: Las mujeres guatemaltecas, hacia un planeta 50-50. Guatemala, Guatemala.
USAID. (enero de 2023). Women in Guatemala. Obtenido de https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/2023-03/Fact%20Sheet%20-%20Women%2001.2023.pdf
World Economic Forum. (Julio de 2022). Global Gender Report: 2022 . Genova, Suiza.