Mayra Pop’s Dream

Credit: Carol Guzy/Ripple Effect

According to UNICEF, out of every ten girls in Guatemala, only six complete their primary education, two complete secondary school, and only one attends university. Mayra Pop is the first person from her community to go to college, but the road there was challenging.

Thanks to the scholarship program of FUNDAECO, a local NGO dedicated to environmental conservation, sustainable development, and promoting women’s and girls’ rights, Mayra completed the highest education level available in her village. However, in order to continue high school, she had to travel to another community, which meant additional expenses that her family could not afford.

Mayra seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of generations of girls from her small indigenous community. At 14, Mayra’s father decided she would not finish school and instead would marry a 21-year-old man who she did not know. But Mayra had learned about her rights in FUNDAECO’s program and decided to defy her father’s decision and the community’s customs and take her case to the justice system. In a landmark ruling, the judge declared that Mayra’s rights were being violated and ordered her family to allow her to continue her education. She received scholarships to attend secondary school and is currently completing a university degree in forest engineering.

Mayra’s dream was the same as so many girls in Guatemala who find joy in going to school and who want to keep studying. Still, a combination of economic insecurity and gender norms do not allow them to pursue their dreams. According to Girls Not Brides, in Guatemala, 30% of girls get married or enter an informal union before they turn 18, and the figure is higher for rural, indigenous girls. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the risks of child marriage, but Mayra’s story serves as an inspiration for other girls in her community to defy societal expectations and pursue their dreams. She aims to use her education to help other girls in similar situations, a reminder of the power of education to change lives and communities for the better. FUNDAECO’s Healthy and Empowered Women and Girls Program continues to reach hundreds of girls and young women like Mayra each year with sexual and reproductive health services, scholarships, leadership development, and connections to economic opportunities.


Radio Ambulante


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