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Women in Guatemala suffer from the largest gender gap in the Latin American/Caribbean region. Indigenous women represent almost 25% of Guatemala’s population and are particularly marginalized. Few have seen beyond the thick glass ceiling that has for centuries denied them an education and the opportunity to develop and use their unique talents and skills. Only 5% of rural, indigenous women complete primary school. Human development data for indigenous Mayans reflects the depth of this exclusion: the highest fertility rate in Latin America , highest infant mortality in Central America , and 6th worst in the world regarding child malnutrition.

Precious few young women have the opportunity to break these powerful cycles of poverty and exclusion. The young women in the SF1by1 program represent a generation that will be the first to apply their unique skills and talents for the betterment of their families, communities and country. Through personalized mentorship and peer support, SF1by1 will equip each with the knowledge and experience to proactively determine their own future and avert falling into the all-too-familiar trap of early marriage and pregnancy and large families in poverty.

Indigenous Mayan girls in Guatemala have never been allowed to aspire to much beyond the traditional cycles of exclusion. The obstacles between a girl and her dreams are often too daunting. Deep poverty, questionable family support, and powerful social pressure to quit school make it essential that she believes in her capacity to overcome and succeed. SF1by1 provides each girl with a community-based mentor whose singular focus is to ensure that each girl beats the overwhelming odds to become educated and empowered.

One proven tool to strengthen this sense of purpose and strength to accomplish is Solutions Focused Therapy. This therapy is a future-focused therapy that emphasizes what clients want to achieve through therapy rather than on the problems that made them seek help. This project consists of acquiring the field-based training for SF1by1 staff and the subsequent training of the SF1by1 mentor staff in this innovative, highly relevant technique.

Organizations working in the field of international development frequently lack the will or capacity to benefit from the experience and knowledge of other programs. SF1by1 strives to never “reinvent the wheel” and the spirit of this collaboration is evidenced through its ongoing collaboration with other NGOs working in Guatemala and elsewhere. In 2010, Givology supporters provided Starfish One by One with critical training in the prevention and treatment of family violence. This powerful information was provided by the world-recognized JUCONI Mexico Foundation. JUCONI, which has run award-winning programs for street-involved children and families, has been providing technical support to programs around the world since 2005.

JUCONI has been utilizing Solutions-Focused Therapy in the field in addition to training other organization in its application for many years now. SF1by1 seeks the support of the Givology community to equip its team of mentors in this proven technique so that more young women break the glass ceiling in Guatemala. SF1by1 staff would travel to Puebla, Mexico where JUCONI is based. They would receive intensive training in addition to accompanying JUCONI staff to observe implementation. They would then return to Guatemala and share their knowledge and experience with the rest of the mentorship team. JUCONI does not charge any fees to provide this training.


Starfish One by One was founded in 2007 to unlock the “Girl Effect” among indigenous girls in Guatemala. SF1by1 recognized that money was not the lone impediment that kept impoverished young women from continuing their education. Deep social and family pressures also play a significant role in derailing the educational aspirations of young women. To address this fully, SF1by1 launched an integrated program that combines partial academic scholarships with the support of a mentor and a positive peer group.


SF1by1 seeks out girls that would otherwise abandon their studies after the 6th grade. Only 5% of rural, Mayan females complete primary school, and of that group scarce few go onto middle school.

The young women in the SF1by1 program are frequently the most educated women in their communities. The average years schooling among their mothers is 1.5 years. The current average among SF1by1 students is 9 years (and climbing!). Solutions-Focused Therapy would be employed and modeled by mentors to assist young women as they address what can seem to be an impossible myriad of circumstances that each confronts while seeking a secondary school education.

95% of the students in the SF1by1 program successfully pass their grade and remain in the program. To give this context, a census conducted in Sololá (where the majority of SF1by1 program is focused) revealed that 25% of female 7th graders drop out.

In 2012, SF1by1 will have its first 4 graduates of the program. All of these graduates are university-bound.

Team Credentials

Starfish One-by-One’s program is guided by a team of experienced female professionals in Guatemala, all of whom have overcome the same obstacles that the young women in the program face today. This unique team ensures an extremely high cultural relevance and sensitivity- a critical feature when addressing sensitive issues like reproductive education in a country like Guatemala.

Norma Baján, is SF1by1’s Country Director. Norma is the youngest of 9 children and from a small village in the department of Sololá. She is the first in her family to graduate from university (in accounting) and has over 10 years experience working for poverty-alleviation programs in Guatemala. Norma is indigenous Katchiquel and resides in Panajachel, Guatemala.


  • October 2015 Update

    At Starfish, we are dedicated to providing educational workshops and trainings that aim to increase knowledge of reproductive rights and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault among our staff and students. To this end, we continue to partner with a wide range of organizations to provide high quality trainings to our mentors and staff with information that can be integrated into our mentorship curriculum. This year, we partnered with JUCONI, the Trauma Resilience Institute (TRI), ADEMKAN, WINGS Guatemala, Population Council, and Dr. Beth Osnes and Chelsea Hackett to integrate a wide range of courses into our curriculum. These workshops are adapted to our unique cultural context in order to effectively reach the students and families in the Starfish program. In the Spring of 2015, Candy, a Starfish graduate and New Horizons participant, started working as a mentor for an organization called Population Council through their Abriendo Oportunidades (Opening Opportunities) program. ...
  • Update from Show her that she can

    Many of the girls featured on Givology are featured in this video. It explains the power of the group of 15 in her life.