EMPLOYMENT IS KEY
Let's talk a bit about what life looks like for the majority of people in Guatemala, and how there is a dire need for safe, dignified employment where one can earn a fare wage.
Due to corruption and lack of stability that exists within the country, unemployment is at an all-time high, with people desperate for work, and without opportunities to care for their families. Feeling as though there is no solution locally, many are leaving the country in order to find employment, and a safer environment for their families, with more hope for a future.
Al Jazeera News stated that “Guatemala is also now the top country of origin of migrants and asylum seekers detained at the US southern border. Most Guatemalan migrants and asylum seekers are from predominantly indigenous highlands areas, and many are families with children” (US Agents' Deployment to Stem Guatemalan Migration Raises Alarm, Cuffe, 2019, para. 3).
There is a level of desperation and hopelessness that exists throughout all of the country that many say is even worse than during the war (which ended in 1996). To make things even harder, the overall unemployment rates are even more dire for women. A 2018 UN Human Rights Committee Report Examining the efforts of Guatemala to promote and protect civil and political rights found that: “In the labour market, the inclusion of women was very low even if women represented 51 percent of the country’s population. Only four out of ten women worked and in addition suffered a considerable wage gap of 14.3 percent” (2018, para 19).
Unemployment is the overarching theme to almost all of the conversations that occur here on a daily basis. It is the ever-present complaint when you ask people how they are, especially women; they just need work, and it is nowhere to be found. I have held focus groups with women, and the takeaway from every meeting is that people just need work; safe, dignified work.