How Mentoring Girls Educates Their Families, Too / by Kate Lord

This post originally appeared on She's the First's blog, Aspire, after I returned from my first international trip with She's the First to visit their Guatemalan partner Starfish One by One.

As photojournalists, we hope that our images will inspire others to take a moment and reflect, and maybe, to act. But after spending time with the girls in our partner Starfish One by One’s program, I was the one who walked away inspired.

The girls we met are so passionate about learning — and not only about what they learn from their schoolbooks. One of the most exciting features of the Starfish One by One program is the mentoring the girls receive from an indigenous Mayan mentor who has gone through many of the same struggles the girls have. When we visited the girls at their homes and spoke to their mothers, time and time again it was the topics the girls covered in their mentoring sessions that had the greatest impact.

We met 16-year-old Mayra and her mother Eusebia Chuj Julajuj at their home in Buena Vista, Guatemala. She came home one day from her weekly mentoring session and spoke to her mom about what she’d learned about family planning. At 35 and a mother of eight, Mayra’s mom then went to speak to her daughter’s mentor about family planning for herself. After speaking with Candelaria, Mayra’s mentor, she decided that she was ready and that she would speak to her husband.

Mayra, who just started high school only a few weeks ago, has inspired her mother to take control of her life. And she’s not the only girl in the Starfish program to do so. Francisca and Brenda, whom we profiled on Aspire, sat down and had a frank conversation with their parents about sex education as well. And Maria’s father told us that his favorite conversation with his daughter about the mentoring program was when she came home and reported what she’d learned about violence against women. It lead to an open family discussion on the topic.

These stories only scrape the surface of the impact mentoring programs have on young women and their families – especially that of our partner Starfish One by One. But ultimately when you spend time educating a girl, you often end up educating her family as well.