Young women in the Starfish One by One program are breaking the glass ceiling by committing to six years junior high and high school education and a brighter future for themselves and their families. Dedicated mentors, other Mayan women who have walked the same path and are among the 1% to reach university, support Starfish students throughout their six years in the program. These mentors run weekly peer support groups for fifteen Starfish girls each, offer out of school academic tutoring, and work with student families to surmount traditional barriers that impede education and women’s empowerment. However, the institutionalized marginalization of Mayan women means that young women in the Starfish program face barriers that extend beyond poverty,
access to schooling, and cultural norms. Family violence, combined with high rates of alcoholism, can all too quickly derail a young woman’s educational ambitions.
Many mentors in the Starfish program have faced situations in which a bubbly, engaged leader in the peer group suddenly disengages. Her group participation drops and her grades in school suffer. When the mentor approaches the young woman about this change in behavior, she learns about issues of domestic violence in the home. This domestic violence ranges from physical abuse by alcoholic mothers or fathers to sexual advances by other adult family members.
Unfortunately, this scenario occurs far more often than it should. Violence is notoriously
underreported, but one recent study asserts that 9 out of every 10 women in Guatemala has been a victim of some form of violence in the home.
Starfish mentors are well versed in academic support, financial literacy, and reproductive
education, and skillfully confront cultural issues like lack of family support around education. Starfish mentors need professional and culturally appropriate training to confront the issue of domestic violence. Specific training is needed to provide each young woman with the skills to cope with and recover from the devastating consequences of violence. Training is also needed to teach young women in the program to recognize the signs of and prevent domestic violence.
In the spirit of collaboration and in order to not “reinvent the wheel,” Starfish has partnered with an expert in the field, the JUCONI Foundation of Mexico, to train Starfish mentors in how to effectively prevent and treat family violence. JUCONI’s internationally-recognized training program tailors its trainings to the specific cultural and programmatic contexts of its clients. Starfish has partnered with JUCONI to provide various training since 2009.
Starfish One by One seeks the support of the Givology community to train Starfish’s ever growing group of mentors in effective family violence prevention. In 2012, mentors from Starfish will visit the JUCONI Foundation in Mexico to receive training on how to properly address this otherwise devastating situation. Mentors will travel from Guatemala to Mexico and accompany JUCONI educators as they perform transformational family visits to the homes of street-involved children. Starfish mentors will bring these skills back to the Guatemalan context through applying these proven-practices among some of Guatemala’s poorest families. JUCONI does not charge for its training, Starfish is seeking support for the travel and administrative costs of JUCONI’s trainers.
As Starfish continues to expand its impact – over 210 students are now enrolled for six years of intensive support and education - our ever growing staff must be trained to effectively deal with family and domestic violence. A well-trained staff ensures that Starfish’s girls receive the most effective, personalized support in the most challenging of situations.