Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.
Education reform requires creative practical ideas, good intentions, and a profound understanding of the issues to identify effective strategies. It sounds easy on paper. However, in countries like Guatemala where decision-making is centralized, decisions are often based on assumptions rather than data, scant resources are wasted on trial and error, and reform is an uphill and constant challenge.
Inequality between the genders, social classes, and distribution of wealth is a source of tension in Guatemalan society. Scarce access to information aggravates these tensions. With 23 different national languages and more than 20,000 communities with populations of less than 2,000, communicating about critical issues like health care and family planning is no small task.
People living with HIV/AIDS often face stigma and discrimination, especially in Central America. In 2004, USAID, together with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, began building support for a mass media campaign for the region to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.
Women’s legal rights have had little understanding and respect throughout Guatemala. Indigenous women, in particular, who represent more than 25 percent of the population, have suffered from an ongoing culture of violence, oppression, and discrimination. This situation is changing due to reforms that Guatemalan society and authorities are fostering under the framework of the 1996 Peace Accords.
Since childhood, Jorge Soza Chi has worked in the Peten rainforest, first as a tree expert in chicle, a product used in chewing gum, and later as president of FORESCOM. This internationally acclaimed forestry concession program works with communities to achieve a balance between protected ecosystems and economic development of concessions within the Maya Biosphere Reserve.
Traditionally, candidates who captured the majority of votes in Guatemala City win the presidency, but that is changing. The 2007 Guatemalan presidential election represents an important shift of power away from Guatemala City and toward the more rural areas of the country. Though this process was underway with the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) victory in 1999, it took on more importance with municipal decentralization in 2002 and now with electoral decentralization.
The story of agricultural diversification—the change from growing only basic grains for family consumption to growing a diverse group of crops sold in national and international markets—is the story of thousands of farmers in the Guatemalan Highlands that has increased incomes, jobs, and opportunity, transforming hundreds of thousands of lives.
The Highlands cover seven of Guatemala’s 22 departments. They comprise less than a fi fth of the country’s surface area, but include more than 60 percent of the country’s farms, most of which are very small, less than two acres each.
Yuri Tecún is an exception to the rule. Thanks to a USAIDbacked scholarship program, she was able to attend university, unlike many other young girls in Guatemala.
According to the 2002 census, only 2.87 percent of high school graduates in Guatemala go on to university. Girls make up only 1.26 percent of this group. If a girl happens to come from a lowincome, rural family like Yuri her chances are even lower.
Last updated: August 12, 2013