Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Karina, Guatemala


“… at that time there was no internet. Technology has advanced very fast because we had no telephone for example, and who could enter a telephone in was one of those that are called “little beans” here in Guatemala. I feel that it made me have a different construction of women, and although we came from different economic conditions, from different cultures, although we are all indigenous, I think that strengthened us a lot. Although the boarding school also limited me to not seeing reality, because since when I left there, then I went to Uspantán and returned, that was when I had many clashes with reality. In the boarding school for example, I never felt that someone had discriminated against me because I was indigenous, because we were among equals, although the nuns did it all the time, it was very different, but when I lived alone in Antigua Guatemala, it was like reality really hit me.”

Karina’s Story

One morning when Karina jumped out of bed, she remembered when she woke up in the boarding school room where her father sent her to continue her high school. He had decided that it was the best place to continue Karina’s studies without consulting her.

Karina is a K’iche’ Indigenous young woman from Uspantán located approximately  6 hours away from Antigua, Guatemala. The barding school was located in Antigua. She always wished for  time to pass as quickly as it possible to return home. She had no idea that she was  starting a no return journey, at least not in the way she had thought.

Uspantán is a town from El Quiche. One of the most affected departments due to the armed conflict in Guatemala, and a place with an Indigenous majority. There are manny barriers to opportunities, especially for women. The women are thought to only do home labor and becomemothers.

Karina, the protagonist of our history, was granted a scholarship offered by the boarding school. Although she was shy and had self-esteem problems, she always stood out at school. She was a leader. With the scholarship, Karina was able to cover her tuition fees for high school. Also, she had access to the scholarship program library, allowing her more knowledge about her country’s history which led her to rethink her past and link this part of her life to everything she had learned in Uspantán when she was a part of juvenile participation and music groups. Karina always found it appealing to read. And having access to a library provided her with so much transformation in her life.

She shared: “that situation changed me. I felt a shift in my way of thinking.  Since then, I have started to have a political approach to different situations.” By entering the universe of books, she opened the possibility to know about different places and ways of life. It also signified learning about other historical moments in her own country. By reading “Guatemala Nunca más. Memoria del Silencio,” Karina found clarification about the things that occurred during the armed conflict. Through these pages, she found information that awakened her conscience. This situation made her study a career related to social sciences in college. In the end, she decides to pursue social work.

Recognising how the State violently acts towards Indigenous communities made her aware of oppressions based on ethnic origins. It also pushed for an awakening that led her to a series of questions and thoughts about her reality.

She recognised that even though she did not feel a sense of belonging to State spaces that discussed national policies about child and youth protection, she felt as if her voice was needed and that it would be useful for a person like her in her country. This led her to travel to other departments and municipalities of Guatemala where she learned about different contexts with similar realities.

Despite everything, she was grateful for being invited to participate in the music group and the National Executive Committee for the Youth and Child from Save the  Children. This allowed her to break the exclusions faced by women, and work toward erasing phrases used daily, such as;  “women should not be walking the streets,” meaning that this space and action is only allowed for men. In Karina’s words: “these situations allowed me not to reduce myself in the private  space, but to feel that I was a part of the public space and that I was allowed to  be there without that being a negative action, or space where, we, as women, were not  allowed.”

Now from a totally different place, at 29 years, Karina feels satisfaction and nostalgia when she remembers her return to Uspantán and the need to go out once again in search of a job and personal growth opportunities. She thinks about all the girls and teenagers who now live in the community where she grew up, and they remind her of her boarding school classmates. She remembers how she felt accompanied and how being Indigenous was never a cause of discrimination in that place. She thinks and wishes that they never face discrimination as she felt when leaving boarding school.

She shares with us: “I would like to tell the girls from today that they have to keep dreaming because we have the possibility to be whoever we want to be. We have to recognise that our self-love is essential. No one can tell us our worth or that we cannot do things.  We are worth it.”