Chapter 11: Lack of opportunities for indigenous young women in Guatemala: forced mobility and absence of social protection systems
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Guatemala offers limited opportunities for young people to reach their full potential, with critical gaps in public programs offered to indigenous youth. Lack of opportunities is particularly challenging for young indigenous women, who struggle to continue their education from a young age and find employment in unsafe domestic and commercial jobs later in life. Municipalities are constrained to offer opportunities for youth due to the lack of public investments that allocate scarce resources for local governments to invest in youth. In this context, the journey in search of opportunities can be characterized as forced mobility due a weak social protection system that is not able to guarantee basic entitlements for indigenous youth. This study builds on qualitative interview data with local government officers in mainly-indigenous municipalities to characterize the opportunities offered to young people overall and young women in particular. We find that lack of access to education leads to migration and low paid jobs that disproportionally expose females to domestic work and commercial exploitation. Due to conservative views that limit sexuality education in rural settings, young women who cannot afford to migrate, thus stay at home and have no other options that marrying young. Increased and consistent public investment with a gender-approach is urgent to strengthen a social protection system that works for indigenous youth, offering alternative opportunities to forced mobility and unsafe migration.

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