RAQUEC YAQUí Elvia Leticia Aldea Cruz de Santiago, Tecpan, Guatemala

A powerful promoter of Mayan women’s rights

Elvia (34), a woman of Maya Kaqchikel ascent, grew up in a small rural community. At 12, her father took her out of school as she was a girl. Shehowever vowed to show her parents and the community that women, just as men, can study and become professionals. She helpedpay her studies and in addition supported her family by working on the side.

After 10 years of grit and unbending determination, she graduated from university with a degree in social work, the first person in her rural community ever to do so. She later joined a Population Council project aimed at the empowerment and education of Mayan girls. After that, she found her perfect niche in a program of the Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI), implementing and overseeing women’s rights programs in rural communities. Now as WJI’s program director, she continues to play a critical role in the development and execution of creative initiatives to empower rural Guatemalan women and girls of Mayan origin through programs focused on access to legal services, women’s rights education and leadership development. She runs numerous workshops for Mayan women in their/her mother tongue, Kaqchikel, and meets with numerous  community leaders and municipal services to advocate for the prevention of gender based violence and ending child marriage. Before becoming a program director, she had led a program, entitled “Delaying early marriage among Mayan girls through culturally grounded community-based interventions.”

Her life is devoted to Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Through her creativity and charisma, she is using an innovative community-based approach to partner with local rural communities to increase women’s access to justice, to opportunities and to improve their ability to exercise their rights to live free from violence.

And there is no doubt that she is slowly reaching her aim.

Her work contributes to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals-Agenda 2030 - Target #4 and #5.