#GIRLHERO Gilda Menchu: Changing Hearts and Minds in Guatemala

International Day of the Girl

Growing up in a rural area of Guatemala, Gilda Menchu knows that opportunities for girls can be few and far between. Girls in her area are often not able to finish primary school. A lack of hospitals keeps them from receiving needed health services. And Guatemalan law says they can be married off at 14.

“Girls can’t move forward in life because it is not allowed for them,” she said at the Girl Up Leadership Summit earlier this year. “Honestly, I’m annoyed that girls are stomped on and no one really cares for us.”

Gilda doesn’t spend too much time worrying about the way things are, however. She is too busy imagining how things could be, and working to create a brighter future for girls in Guatemala.

We first met Gilda two years ago when a Girl Up delegation traveled to Guatemala to visit the Joint UN program we support. The program partners with local organizations to help support adolescent girls in the country, with a specific emphasis on indigenous girls. One such organization is Asociacion IDEI, the organization Gilda is part of.

Through Asociacion IDEI, Gilda is part of the group of media producers for the Guatemalan Parliament for Children and Adolescents. In that role, she campaigns for – and raises awareness of – the rights of adolescent girls. Only 15 years old, she teaches workshops to parents, providing information on topics of interest to children and adolescents. By working with parents Gilda hopes to prevent child marriages and early pregnancies, one of the worst problems that afflict rural adolescents.

In her last year of school, Gilda wants to pursue a career in medicine. To do so however she would have to move out of her community, creating an economic problem for her family. Not to be deterred, Gilda plans on being a teacher first, and then studying medicine later.

No matter what path her career takes she is clear on one goal: In a few years she wants to take a seat at the United Nations to work for the rights of all persons.

“I think women have the potential and the energy to show others that we are capable of many things,” said Gilda. “At the end it doesn’t matter what language you speak or what culture you’re from. Girls everywhere can do it.”

Today, we honor our #GIRLHERO Gilda. Who’s yours? Take to social media and share the photos and stories of your friends, family and female role models who you consider to be a #GIRLHERO.