Earlier this year, Girl Up visited Guatemala to deliver 250 bicycles from the SchoolCycle campaign to help girls go to school. Girls who received a bicycle live in the rural highlands of Guatemala and travel long distances to attend a nearby school. At the ceremony, many fathers were present to witness their daughters receiving bicycles to help them reach their educational goals. In Guatemala, and around the world, fathers play an integral role empowering their daughters and ensuring their education. We talked to Guatemalan fathers and daughters about the importance of supporting girls’ education.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you feel receiving a bike?
Thelma Ba (daughter): I am 14 years old. I feel happy to receive a bike and I want to continue going forward with school. I want to study nursing so I can know what it means to help others in my community. I also like studying math. It takes me an hour to get from my home to school. Having a bike means that school won’t seem as far anymore. I’m going to take my bike to school. My friends and I are excited to receive a bike because it feels like we all won a prize.
Question to dad: How do you feel about Thelma going to school and receiving a bike?
Federico Ba (father): I feel happy that my daughter is receiving a bike because it’s a way to help her go to school. I get worried a lot when she goes walking to school because we live far. Sometimes it rains a lot and can get her notebooks wet. The weather conditions can be bad too. When it’s too hot, she can get dehydrated. It’s important for girls to go to school because as a father, I acknowledge her right to go to school. She needs to know about the importance of studying and having a brighter future. My message to all the fathers out there is that girls should go to school so they can be ready in life. Not all the parents who live in this area, like me, got the chance to study, but that can all change with girls having the opportunity to go to school.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you feel about receiving a bike?
Damaris: My name is Damaris Yesenia Batescar and I am 16 years old. I feel satisfied and thankful to receive a bike. It takes an hour by foot to get from my home to school. I want to be a doctor of medicine one day. I am the second oldest of 5 siblings. I like being part of Abriendo Oportunidades because it’s a good program; I learn a lot of things like how to make hand-made bags and huipiles. Some of the workshop topics we talk about in Abriendo Oportunidades is about women and the issues we face as girls. My sister Marlene and I know how to ride a bike but we’ve never owned one so I’m happy to share my bike with her.
Marlene: My name is Marlene and I am 17 years old. I am thankful that my sister was able to get a bike so she can continue to study since the distance is far. It’s a long road to get to school. Seeing the girls receive a bike is exciting because they all feel happy. I want to be a lawyer one day. I am the oldest of all our 5 siblings. As the oldest sister, I am happy to see my sister get a bike. This bike changes not only her life but mine as well and our family’s. My sister always goes to school on foot, even in the rain but now she has a bike to help her. We get out of school at six in the evening so a bike helps us get home faster. One day, I hope my little sisters and I can get a bike too.
As a father, why do you support your daughters decision to go to school?
Dad: Since the beginning, I worked hard to make sure my daughters go to school. Even though we don’t have money, at least my daughters can do something like go to school and get out of poverty. One without studies doesn’t know anything and are poor. Through studies one is able to overcome, and one is ready and can even go to the U.S. It’s important for fathers to support their daughters wanting to go to school so girls can know the issues pertaining to them, so they know how to live, and avoid problems like early pregnancy. I tell my daughters to continue going to school, so they can be more ready and not be fooled. That’s the whole point of school. And later on in life have a calm life. The school is one hour away walking distance from our home. It’s one hour to get to school and one hour to come back. That’s two hours girls spend just going to and from school. We hope that Abriendo Oportunidades and the other organizations here can bring more next time for the girls here.