Connie is a young woman from Camojá Grande, Guatemala, a village of about 5,000 people nestled in the mountains that border southern Mexico. In Connie’s community, most people only have informal employment, which lacks stability, fair pay and benefits.
“I had a great childhood growing up. But I came from a modest family, and we were often lacking financial resources,” says Connie.
Many work on nearby plantations. But for the long days bending over crops, they make the equivalent of about $75 per month. That’s not enough to provide for a family, and it is one of the reasons why malnutrition is so rampant in Guatemala.
Though many people associate malnutrition with sub-Saharan Africa, Guatemala has one of the highest rates in the world. More than four out of every 10 children in Guatemala have stunted growth because of hunger. The rate is even higher in the rural communities, where most people are of Mayan descent. Communities like Connie’s.
“My dad, he works a lot, but here in Guatemala he doesn’t earn a lot of money, and work can be hard to find,” says Connie. In this context, many young people drop out of school to begin working in their adolescence. They must start contributing to the family’s income.
What makes it even more complicated is that in Guatemala, secondary education isn’t always available to everyone. Some towns may not have secondary schools. Or there may only be a limited number of spots in public schools. Those who can’t afford private school are forced to drop out.