Determined mother of two Edilia is on a mission - to teach other mothers in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, to read and write.
For her, there is no better way to protect women from being taken advantage of, and combat gender violence and discrimination in her community.
Like many parents in the impoverished Guatemalan city, Edilia and her husband struggled to support their two children on the family’s meagre income, so she turned to us for support. It was while attending our SOS parenting workshops that she realised how valuable her literacy skills could be in an area where many people are unable to read and write.
Confident she had the power to help other women, Edilia set to work.
“I started working with the families, teaching them how to read and write,” she recalls.
“At first, many of the women weren’t able to write at all. The muscles of their hands were very tight because many women in Guatemala plait hats or work with threads. Some of them tore the paper when they tried to write on it. I had to apply various techniques to help them make their hands softer.”
Edilia has faced her share of discrimination. “They put us women down,” she tells us.
“In my own family, my parents say that they won’t give us land because we are women. For me, that’s discrimination. That’s inequality.”
But being able to read and write offers women important protections, she argues.
“When I started the classes, a woman told us her story. She said that one day someone came to her house and asked her to sign a document - they told her it was for some kind of aid. Since she wasn’t able to read, she signed. But that’s not what the contract was for.”
Santa Cruz del Quiche has a large indigenous population – up to 80% - and many families suffer the effects of social exclusion and other disadvantages which leave their children vulnerable to malnutrition, poverty, poor education and inequality.
Edilia’s lessons are just part of the support SOS is offering. Our family strengthening programme is working to curb child malnutrition and provide access to parenting workshops, early childhood development and literacy classes.
Edilia believes that education plays an important role in ending harmful patterns such as violence and discrimination against women.
Edilia’s own life has improved since she joined the programme. Now her family is receiving monthly food parcels from SOS they have been able to save enough money to build a modest home and install a water line, so they are no longer reliant on unsafe water from the local river.
“The support SOS has offered my family has been very important for us,” Edilia tells us.
“It has helped us so much economically, but the most important part for me has been the learning. Through family training we have learned a lot.”
Her husband also joins her for the family strengthening workshops, something she sees as essential. “If only women attend the workshops men do not always believe us when we tell them what we have learned – but it is different when they go themselves and listen.”
“What I see in the families taking part is that fewer women are victims of violence - and that’s a progress for society, and for the families themselves.
“They have a different perspective on the social context now - that’s what I see. They are different families, different people.”
Edilia is incredibly proud of the progress the women she teaches have made.
“If you could see them in the classroom now,” she says smiling. “They can read!”