Rosario Rodriguez understands perseverance.

More than four years ago, she put her education on hold after completing the 6th grade due to her family’s financial challenges. The idea of creating a better life in their small village in Guatemala was simply beyond the family’s reach.

Agriculture is the primary economic driver in the family’s village of El Suj, located in the municipality of Aguacatan in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. A majority of the population dedicates themselves to cultivating potatoes and corn.

A young woman of 16 years old, Rosario works as a housekeeper in the neighboring village of Ojo de Agua and her salary helps her family make ends meet, but she still dreams of continuing her education one day. She lives with her parents and three siblings in one small adobe house.

Poverty is a major barrier that often separates women from the opportunity to access the education and skills needed to create their own capital.

Determined to make a better life for herself and her family, Rosario joined a WE group organized by the Asociación para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Juventud (ADESJU) or the Association for the Sustainable Development of Youth. Despite weekly challenges to get to the meetings, she is a very active member and was elected by her group to be one of two book writers. In this role, she records the group’s financial activities in the ledger book and in individual members’ passbooks.

With the support of PCI, ADESJU was created by an enthusiastic group of Guatemalan youth in 2004. At the time, PCI was interested in strengthening local capacity and supported the youth group by training 18 community promoters in topics of community participation and sexual and reproductive health. ADESJU, now a sustainable and legally registered NGO, focuses on strengthening development work in the municipality of Chiantla, in the department of Huehuetenango, and to improve the lives of boys, girls and adolescents. The organization is made up of 100% local leadership and also promotes projects with an emphasis on leadership of young women in rural areas.

Ten years later, in 2014 and in alliance with PCI, ADESJU began implementation of the Women Empowered (WE) Initiative, a partnership that has served to strengthen the organization and has contributed to the economic, social and political empowerment of nearly 2,000 women in the municipalities of Chiantla and Aguacatán, Guatemala.

Within the framework of WE, ADESJU has organized a total of 94 WE groups with a total of 1,839 participants – 90% of whom are women. The goal of the WE Initiative is to encourage women to save and manage small businesses, as well as increase their participation in decision making processes and leadership in their community. To date there is a total of 183,844 Guatemalan Quetzales (24,190 USD) in savings and 494 small loans made to members. Of these small loans, 74% have been used for productive activities enabling the women to increase their income and supporting the economic development of their communities.

ADESJU’s organizational strength continues to be working with young rural women and men who are trained and contribute to the organization. In turn, these youth promote a model of integrated community-led development focused on human, social, economic, cultural, environmental and political development for current and future generations.

Rosario shared that ADESJU’s WE program motivates her to train and learn new things. Her personal goal is to save 500 Guatemalan Quetzales (65 USD) and have the means to fulfill her dream of continuing her education next year. She plans to study in a neighboring community where there’s an institute for basic education. She also took a loan of 100 Quetzales in order to buy a chicken coop and to raise chickens.

Women’s empowerment means providing women, like Rosario, with tools and opportunities to succeed in all aspects of life, including social and economic sectors.