Starfish-One-by-One (SF1by1) empowers and educates young women in Guatemala to be leaders in their communities. Formally set up as a US non-profit incorporated in Colorado in 2007, Starfish One-by-One was founded on the principle of providing high-quality services to a select group so that they in turn can promote the profound changes needed to break generational cycles of poverty for many. Starfish One-by-One focuses on unlocking the potential and talent of Guatemala’s most marginalized population: Mayan adolescent girls. Through ensuring their sustained access and success in secondary schooling and empowerment, Starfish One-by-One creates capable females who will to positively change their family, community and country.
Adolescent, indigenous girls in rural settings represent one of Guatemala’s most marginalized groups. On a national level, Mayan girls start school on average 1.2 years later than their peers. Only 5% of rural, Mayan girls actually finish primary school and from there only 14% even have access to secondary school. Mayan females present data that puts them on par with some of the more marginalized populations in the world: 70% are illiterate, maternal mortality is three times higher than the national average, 40% are married by age 18 and 7 in 10 of those lacking an education are mothers by age 20. Not surprisingly, Guatemala has the worst gender gap in the hemisphere.
Fortunately, the data surrounding the impact of girl’s education (known as “The Girl Effect”) demonstrates its capacity to transform families and communities. Data related to global efforts to educate girls is extremely encouraging. A girl in the developing world with 7 or more years of education marries 4 years later and has 2.2 fewer children. Each year of secondary school boosts her future wages by 15-25%. Additionally, she invests 90% of her earnings back into her family (versus only 30-40% for a man). Clearly, excluded Mayan girls in Guatemala have a great capacity to become powerful agents of change if given the opportunity.
SF1by1 draws from a deep well of individual and institutional experience in Guatemala, particularly in the area of programming targeting women. The organization’s collective 75 years of field experience gives great credence to the voice of the Guatemalan staff in determining every facet of the program’s implementation. The organization’s leadership in Guatemala is 80% female and 70% indigenous.
This close collaboration between the US and Guatemalan teams has greatly accelerated the development of a proven model that empowers and educates indigenous young women who would otherwise continue chronic cycles of poverty and exclusion. Launched in 2008, the integrated intervention combines academic scholarships, highly personalized mentorship and consistent positive peer support. While the model itself is highly inventive, it also benefits from extensive collaboration with longstanding NGOs for much of its curriculum. The result is a powerful program that achieves results that are unparalleled among programs targeting one of Guatemala’s most isolated and marginalized populations: indigenous, adolescent girls.
The program consists of 3 main elements:
• Partial Academic Scholarships to help her overcome the immediate economic obstacles impeding her access to secondary education.
• The PODER (POWER) Program represents phase I of the SF1by1 program and targets girls in the 7-9th grade. PODER envelops each girl with peer and mentor support to tackle the social, familial and structural pressures that each girl confronts on her path towards secondary school education. The focus is therefore to cultivate leadership skills and equip each girl with the critical information (such as reproductive education, financial literacy, nutrition, etc.) to ensure her complete social and economic participation.
• The PUENTE (BRIDGE) Program represents phase II of the program and focuses on the application of individual skills and talents in the “real world” beyond high school and the SF1by1 program. This program builds upon the PODER program by helping each girl develop the professional and planning skills to successfully navigate the world beyond high school. The BRIDGE equips her with the knowledge to apply her education, empowerment, and unique skills for the betterment of her family and community beyond high school.
SF1by1’s emphasis on quality is reflected by its Grains of Sand monitoring and evaluation system. This system was custom-built for the SF1by1 program and tracks each individual student to measure her progress in the following areas:
• Academic Performance: sustained school access and success
• Emotional Development: self-esteem, proactivity/assertiveness, critical thinking
• Social Integration: levels of access and use of community resources and social spaces
• Social Responsibility: use of skills and talents for community betterment
Fully 95% of the students in SF1by1 are academically successful and continue their education.
SF1by1 will unlock the transformative “Girl Effect” among the most marginalized communities in Guatemala. SF1by1 will achieve this via 2 approaches:
• Unlock the “Girl Effect” via highly-personalized and innovative empowerment and education programs for 300 concurrent beneficiaries. The long-term impact of the SF1by1 program with yield comprehensive results:
• Ripple the “Girl Effect” by sharing field-tested methodology to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of other girl-focused programs in Guatemala and elsewhere. In August 2011, SF1by1 launched its Technical Support Program that will help another NGO develop its own mentorship program in the remote region of northern Guatemala.