By Catarina Sarvia Juan Andres
Santa Irene Coc Quim is 16 years old, lives in the La Reformita community in Ixcán, Guatemala, and is a participant in Trickle Up’s Desde El Poder Local project. Trickle Up and the municipality of Ixcan, the municipality of Chahal, the municipality of Nebaj, and the municipality of Senahú, are working in rural Guatemala to empower 1,625 young indigenous women like Santa Irene between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. The project combines the components of our Graduation Approach to livelihood development with key interventions in reproductive health in order to deepen the impact of both.
Santa Irene received a seed capital grant of 1,000 quetzales (US $127) that she used to begin selling consumer goods in her community. She also received support from her father, who invested part of his earnings from the sale of his corn crop into expanding Santa Irene’s store.
The project encourages the inclusion of male family members as it increases the likelihood that changes in gender dynamics and decision-making will be sustainable and support long-term changes in gender norms in project communities.
Santa Irene and her father were soon investing 2,000 – 2,500 quetzales (US $254 -317) per month in her business. They offered good prices on affordable products and had many customers in the community.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to slower sales, as many people have lost their jobs.
Sourcing products has also become more difficult as there is currently no public transportation. When Santa Irene and her father do manage to travel, the price of their transport increases the overall costs for the supply run. Therefore, their monthly investments have decreased to 1 ,000 to 1,500 quetzales (US $127 – 190).
Nevertheless, they have been able to face the Covid-19 crisis with the support of the profits generated by the business. ”We can use some items to feed ourselves in this time of crisis,” says Santa Irene’s father. “The plants that I grow on the plot, such as blackberry grass, punta de güisquil, beans, and others, we eat. And what is left over we sell.“
Although the situation has become complicated in recent months, they are facing the crisis wisely, using part of the accumulated profit from their productive activity and the savings generated in the community savings group to invest in a corn crop, which would provide a food supply in the following months. With the support Santa Irene has received from the project and profits from the business, she and her father are resilient in the face of crisis and continue to work towards improving their quality of life.
Catarina Sarvia Juan Andres is a Field Technician in Ixcán Guatemala.