Like many other indigenous Maya-Mam women in Guatemala, Aurelia Jimenez has suffered discrimination and poverty following decades of civil war. “Our lives are hard,” she shares, but she is committed to making a difference for her family.

Aurelia Jimenez works in a nursery in Tuixcajchis, a small Mam-speaking Maya village in Comitancillo, Guatemala. The nursery is run by a women's group assisted by the Maya Mam Association for Investigation and Development (AMMID). AMMID's work is supported by Presbyterian World Service & Development, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Aurelia Jimenez works in the nursery operated by her village group. (Credit: Paul Jeffrey)

Aurelia’s passion and dedication are driving that change.

Through a PWS&D-supported project in her village, she gained knowledge and learned new skills. The women in her group received seeds and training in how to prepare the land and improve the way they plant. Importantly, they also learned how to prepare the new food they were growing. This has enabled families to grow their own food rather than buying it, and also to improve and diversify their diets.

While Aurelia’s husband originally did not give her permission to attend the meetings and training sessions, she continued to attend and eventually got up the courage to tell him about her involvement.

When she was elected president of her village group, her husband began to understand more about what she was doing and how important it was that the women were receiving training. “Now my husband demands that I be involved in the trainings and the group. Now he waits to hear what I have learned after every training.”

Since the program started the women are now able to support themselves and their families. Aurelia reflected on the experience, “As soon as we joined the program our husbands wanted to see immediate results, so that was a challenge. These changes have been difficult but worth it. I wish everyone could experience this change and be able to support their families.”

The program also promotes gender equality and women’s rights. Because of this, Aurelia found the courage first to advocate for herself within her marriage, but also within the broader community—inspiring others with a vision for a brighter tomorrow.

Gradually, Aurelia discovered a newfound confidence in her role as a Maya-Mam woman, mother and leader. In this role, she is not only providing for her family, she is also inspiring a future where some of the most marginalized women are empowered, educated and able to claim their rights.