Guatemala has a rich history of beautiful traditions, people, landscapes and cultures. But like many places in the world, there is a history of injustice. Here, in the village of Huehuetenango, lingers a dark cloud of violent discrimination and misogyny.

But one church is fighting that—with carpentry.

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Guatemala has the third highest rate of femicide, or gender-based hate crimes, in the world. Rooted in the Guatemalan Civil War in the late 1900s, in which women were tortured, raped and killed with impunity, this history of violence against women still chokes the safety, opportunities and quality of life for many Guatemalan women.

Stirred to allow young women to see their worth and potential, the staff at the Compassion-assisted child development centre in Huehuetenango decided to offer carpentry classes to teenage girls.

“Carpentry is not very common for women here in Guatemala. It’s been long considered a male profession. This can trigger thoughts like, ‘I shouldn’t be here. I’m not supposed to do that,’” says Program Director Elby Rivas.

“The carpentry workshop breaks the barrier that says that a child’s fate is the poverty of their parents, and they will follow in their footsteps.”

A number of teenage girls stand in a room holding wood items they have made, smiling at the camera.

[Carpentry] gives me great joy because I feel confident,” says Lucerito, one of the girls in the classes. “I really can do it, and in the future, I will continue to see what I can create to help others.”

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Do you want to empower youth with job skills this Christmas? Give the gift of carpentry tools!

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Written by: Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips is the Marketing Writer for Compassion Canada. She is passionate about pursuing justice and mercy through writing, crafting, music, and sharing stories over a cup of strong coffee.