All Highland Support Project Guatemalan initiatives work in conjunction with its sister organization, Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA), located in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
AMA works in our partner Highland communities to establish local Women’s Circles, which provide participants with a network of mutual support and a forum for sharing dreams, fears and collaborating on solutions. AMA facilitates technical and educational training on topics that range from civic participation, entrepreneurship, self-esteem, nutrition, Maya cultural identity and community resilience.
Put most simply, our goal for each circle is resilience and self/determination. The majority of authority is transferred directly into the hands of circle members so that they choose projects specifically for their community’s needs, driving their development. Depending on the needs and wants of their community, projects may include building classrooms, greenhouses, school kitchens, community centers, and constructing drainage and sanitation systems.
AMA also utilizes the circle infrastructure to foster local leadership and entrepreneurs. As Circle members identify potential local leaders, AMA provides them with specific training to develop into this role. Additionally, AMA has various skill building projects—such as Pixan and Q’anil—which help develop and find markets for local artisans. These projects help women access and build formal and niche markets.
Following active women’s circle engagement for three months, a woman becomes eligible to receive a Clean-Air Stove. These stoves are built by HSP service-learning partners and channel thick smoke out of homes and decrease the respiratory issues that are prevalent among families that cook with open pit fires. Because these stoves are more fuel-efficient, women spend less time collecting firewood and cooking and therefore have more time for active participation within their communities. Through increased participation, women experience an elevated self-worth and can see themselves as leaders.