Amplify Her Voice (MAIA)
One-line solution summary:
Mayan Girl Pioneers in Guatemala break a culture of silence through an empowered voice amplified by technology
Pitch your solution.
For centuries, rural Maya women have endured a "culture of silence" that does not take them into account. As arguably the most vulnerable population in the Western Hemisphere, these women are born into a "fate" of marginalization and quadruple discrimination (poor, rural, female, Maya).
MAIA operates the Impact School, Central America's first secondary school designed specifically for Maya girls. The empathy-driven design combines global innovations with a same-sex/race faculty. The goal of the school is to abandon the notion of incremental change by propelling Girl Pioneers into spaces of influence and decision-making now. We propose the scaling of a program that distributes internet-equipped tablets to Girl Pioneers. These tablets are tools to maintain academic momentum and also serve as an instrument that Girl Pioneers can use to create communication both into and out of villages. In doing so, Girl Pioneers will create a permanent space for their voice and perspective.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
As a recent 36-year civil war demonstrates, Guatemala is a fractured country. Currently, a huge portion of the country’s talent—adolescent girls—slips through the cracks. Just 1 out of 10 Maya girls complete high school. Guatemala struggles to address pressing, complex problems without the talents of a large portion of its population.
In spite of global data showing the power of the “Girl Effect,” girls born into rural poverty are often considered “the problem.” Oppressed by centuries of racism, machismo, and low expectations, many girls end up marrying young and mothering often. The predictable cycle of intergenerational poverty persists. Guatemala’s poverty rate is 60%, and the country has the 6th-worst level of child malnutrition. The “double burden” (increased fees + opportunity costs) families confront when sending daughters to secondary school represents an enormous gamble. The result is a devastating notion that girls are the problem, even though all data shows how they represent the solution.
Even for the few girls who do manage to access secondary school, the low quality calls into question the investment. Without proof, millions of families opt out of the questionable “risk” that the cost of their daughter’s education represents.
What is your solution?
MAIA exists to evidence that talented young women are “the solution.” MAIA’s Impact School aims to catapult talented young women from the shadows and into leadership positions. Young women can illuminate ideas and innovations that Guatemala desperately needs at all levels.
Launched in 2017, MAIA’s Impact School is reframing the word “education” for Maya girls in Guatemala. MAIA targets outlier Girl Pioneers and families willing to embark on a bold new trajectory. MAIA’s innovative school, defined by student-centered design, includes a family engagement program that ensures that Girl Pioneers achieve success with their families (not in spite of them). Prior to COVID-related restrictions, MAIA students were achieving two years of academic growth for every one year of schooling.
The onset of COVID-19 accelerated MAIA’s use of technology to maintain academic momentum in rural homes previously bereft of internet access. Internet-equipped tablets are now in the hands of Girl Pioneers so they are able to maintain academic growth while also broadcasting their voices, perspectives, and leadership into new spheres. Combining this technology with MAIA’s support allows Girl Pioneers to break the centuries of silence by becoming conduits of information into and out of their villages.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
MAIA is one of the few organizations in Guatemala that is designed, led, and run by Maya women from the same communities as the Girl Pioneers. At every level, Girl Pioneers see themselves reflected in the faculty (same gender/race). Leadership and the vast majority of staff can all speak Kachiquel, the local Maya dialect of parents (most of whom have just a few years of formal schooling). Families play an essential role in maintaining momentum. Mentors visit the home of each Girl Pioneer at least once a month to ensure parental participation and resolve.
The majority of MAIA’s staff are the most educated members of their own families. They are acutely familiar with the challenges and pressures that impede an ambition to go from society’s shadows and into a position of influence. This ensures that MAIA’s empathy-driven design is grounded in personal experience and informed by the concepts of Human-Centered Design.
As a learning organization, MAIA strives to attune its programming to a fast-moving world. MAIA seeks feedback from dozens of external trainers and conducts an annual impact audit each year. Internally, the Impact School’s student government plays an instrumental role by keeping MAIA’s leadership aware of student needs.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Reduce the barriers that prevent girls and young women—especially those living in conflict and emergency situations—from reaching key learning milestones
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
Even before the onset of COVID-19, the majority of Maya girls survived outside the margins of education and opportunity. COVID-19 excludes them even further. MAIA is designed to evidence the power of girls’ education by propelling Girl Pioneers into positions of influence and leadership. The absence of health security information for rural villages presents Girl Pioneers with an opportunity to step into the void and become advocates for their villages. Internet-equipped tablets will allow each to acquire and produce essential information that can position educated girls as key leaders and agents of change.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Guatemala
What is your solution’s stage of development?Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
By the time Girl Pioneers complete the 6th grade, most are already the most educated members of their families. This bold trajectory is intense and rife with risk. Our primary competition is neglect and apathy. These have been pervasive elements that have kept indigenous women outside the margins of society for 500 years. For too long, the governing philosophy has held that modest, incremental change is all that can be expected for girls born into situations of quadruple discrimination (poor, rural, female, Maya). COVID-19 permits an even higher degree of "excuses" to continue to neglect the potential of this population.
Internet-equipped tablets cut through the centuries of barriers that have kept girls’ voices and talents hidden, such as difficult topography, remote villages, absence of basic services, and now COVID-19. This innovation represents the ability to equip Girl Pioneers leapfrog in the areas of academic growth and advocacy. Even when classes resume, Girl Pioneers can accelerate their academic trajectory via access to online content. More significantly, with this innovation, a Girl Pioneer can now interface with and produce information in ways that Guatemala, both rural and urban, has never before seen.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
The technology is quite basic and consists of a relatively inexpensive tablet that can accommodate a SIM-card. An Android OS allows for maximum access to a multitude of tools as well as local IT support. Prior to distribution among Girl Pioneers, MAIA staff load content (ebooks and assignments) and apps (such as Zoom, Khan Academy, skype, whatsapp, Achieve, Plickers, Kahoot!, and Google Drive). Tablets are then loaded with a SIM card and are distributed with a protector. The pre-paid internet can be charged remotely.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
Access to the internet has obvious educational benefits. The ability to run online classes that are live and interactive is exponentially better than studying alone without a teacher. Where the innovation is most acute is in the use of tablet/internet to broadcast the voice and perspective of Girl Pioneers. For several years, MAIA has been working on a competency called Vocal Empowerment (link to a recently published study is included below). Vocal Empowerment centers on the emotional and physical manifestations of voice. Girl Pioneers practice these skills daily. Tablets allow them to broadcast this new voice throughout Guatemala and beyond.
Tablets allow Girl Pioneers to create and send content (audio or video) that can be shared with local radio. MAIA Is currently piloting contextualized COVID-focused educational messages that are available in local Maya dialects.
For samples of COVID-related content: https://www.guatemala.com/noticias/sociedad/podcast-guatemala-com-maia-informacion-covid-19-kaqchikel-tzutujil-kiche.html
For samples of ways that vocal empowerment of girls is broadcast throughout Guatemala: https://maiagt.org/covid19-podcast
For research on Vocal Empowerment: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19443927.2019.1637371
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
MAIA’s “inch-wide, mile-deep” strategy is predicated on the idea that through providing intensive, personalized services to high-aptitude adolescent girls, they will achieve transformational change for their communities and country. MAIA leverages several organizational characteristics that contribute to the efficacy of the organization:
Designed, led, and run by “mirrored” staff. MAIA’s empathy-driven design is based on a team that is the same race/gender as the students. We know that when girls see it, they can be it.
As a learning organization, MAIA is built to respond. When we do not know how to address a problem, we partner with someone who can help us. MAIA has a vibrant network of external innovators who introduce best-practices through training our local staff.
We are guided by an abundance mindset. MAIA scales impact by supporting other organizations to access cutting-edge methodologies. In 2019, MAIA facilitated access to innovation for over 40 schools and organizations.
MAIA achieves impact through collaboration. MAIA has founded several networks in Guatemala to synchronize efforts to unlock the potential of girls.
Eco-systemic in our approach. MAIA achieves success with families, not in spite of them. The family engagement program is a defining attribute of our program.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
MAIA currently serves 188 Girl Pioneers and their families (approximately 1,500 people). Current Girl Pioneers are in grades 7-10 and MAIA will continue to scale its student population to 300 in grades 7-12 by 2022. MAIA’s intensive family engagement program considers families as direct clients of the school. Girl Pioneers receive at least monthly visits from a team of professional mentors who help families build and maintain a vision for their daughter. The MAIA Impact School is already a global model. In 2019 it was recognized as the “Best School in the Americas by the Zayed Sustainability Prize for its high level of inclusivity and innovation. In 2020, MAIA is on the finalist list for the WISE Innovation Awards.
MAIA scales impact by supporting other organizations. In 2019, MAIA hosted or facilitated trainings for over 40 organizations. MAIA has founded two networks in Guatemala. The first is The Colectivo, a network of organizations focused on Maya women/girls. MAIA also launched the District, a network of 5 NGO-run schools serving Guatemala’s most marginalized populations. Proven innovations are quickly disseminated among both of these vibrant networks.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
The onset of COVID has disrupted strategies but not the overall plan and vision for five years. MAIA will disrupt the status quo of how society in Central America perceives the value of girls’ education. MAIA’s innovative model and commitment to collaboration will provide empirical evidence of how quality education and local staffing unlocks new and essential talent that benefits all.
MAIA has four specific institutional goals that drive all innovation and design:
ECONOMIC AUTONOMY—Graduates will be independent and upwardly mobile when they earn the average income in Guatemala of $4,000 per year.
A FAMILY ON HER TERMS—Our goal is that MAIA graduates will delay marriage and pregnancy until they are at least 25 years old and in a stable position to support a family.
LIFELONG LEARNING—Our goal is that MAIA graduates complete 15 years of schooling. We know that each Girl Pioneer has different ambitions, so we work with them to find formal and informal programs that meet their unique needs after graduating from high school.
UNLOCKING LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL—Our goal is that Girl Pioneers are empowered to empower.
By 2025, MAIA will be a regional innovation hub that acquires, tests, and shares out global innovations that unlock the potential of young women. MAIA will evidence the power of local, Maya women as changemakers and leaders. Staff and Girl Pioneers will occupy positions of influence that permit them to introduce previously unseen insights and innovation.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
MAIA confronts numerous barriers, chief among which are:
Machismo- Guatemala has the worst gender inequity in the hemisphere. Gender norms and attitudes place very little value on the talents and potential of girls. In rural villages, are expected to marry young and leave the family, while boys bring their spouses into the familial home and care for parents. Consequently, many families question the value of educating daughters.
Racism- A painful history of colonialism and civil war is not resolved. Indigenous women have deplorably low levels of access to and engagement with formal health, economic, political, and educational systems. Guatemala remains an incredibly fractured society that is clearly divided between rural-urban/Maya-non Maya.
The social perception that Maya women are the problem- Development indicators related to indigenous females show profound levels of marginalization. Indicators on early marriage, frequent childbirth, high levels of poverty, and child malnutrition often position this population as “the problem” and weight holding back Guatemala’s development. The notion of the “Girl Effect” and the transformational benefits of educating girls remains a foreign concept in Guatemala.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
Machismo and cultural norms around the value of girls is a minefield that can only be navigated from within the rural communities. MAIA targets outlier families capable of modeling a new paradigm. To engage these families, MAIA leverages the profile of its team. MAIA’s staff is comprised of women from these villages. They speak the local dialect and fully understand the implications and challenges of families willing to deviate from the norms of machismo. MAIA is very deliberate in the way it helps these families generate social capital with other like-minded neighbors. MAIA visits these families on a regular basis to catalyze and maintain these connections and the vision for their daughters. These families will inspire others to question antiquated gender norms.
Systemic racism against indigenous is 500 years old. MAIA is creating previously-unseen, fail-tolerant spaces for dialogue. MAIA’s leadership team courageously leads this effort. MAIA conducts dozens of events and visits designed to provoke reflection on both sides of the divide. A carefully-cultivated network of allies representing urban-elite Guatemalan society serves as an invaluable navigation system to support this effort.
MAIA’s model deliberately reframes insidiously low expectations for Maya girls. This is best achieved by evidencing the incredible potential of this population. This occurs when Girl Pioneers:
-Are heard on rural radio sharing critical COVID-related information
-Compete academically at a national level
-Catalyze community-oriented initiatives in their villages
-Generate innovations and ideas at familial, village, and national levels
-Interact confidently with traditional authorities
What type of organization is your solution team?Nonprofit
How many people work on your solution team?
MAIA is a team of 55 individuals. 90% are female and 85% are Maya.
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
MAIA has proven its ability to identify, contextualize, and implement cutting-edge innovations in the rural Guatemalan context. MAIA’s model is based on collaborative partnerships with innovators who seek to test their practice in the laboratory that is the Impact School.
MAIA’s team is comprised largely of female, indigenous Pioneers. Each is the most educated member of her family. As a result, MAIA is very familiar with the challenging journey of each Girl Pioneer and family. All share a commitment to redefine the word “school” in Guatemala in order to highlight the potential of Maya females.
MAIA leadership has been recognized on national and international levels. The school was recognized as the “Best School in the Americas¨in 2019 for its innovation and inclusivity (Zayed Sustainability Prize). The WISE Innovation Awards currently have MAIA on their shortlist of finalists for their annual award.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
MAIA partners with dozens of organizations to propel forward innovation and impact. For a more comprehensive list, please see: https://maiagt.org/nuestras-alianzas-3
For this project, the following partnerships are in place:
SPEAK.world co-designed MAIA’s Vocal Empowerment program. This competency is essential for the continued development and expression of each Girl’s authentic voice. SPEAK provides continual training to MAIA staff, who implement the Vocal Curriculum at all levels of the Impact School.
The Colectivo Network: This network of four women-focused organizations is currently piloting the production and broadcasting of public service messages and general programming via radios reaching approximately 1 million people. These messages relate to reproductive health, nutrition, women’s legal rights, and education.
What is your business model?
MAIA provides outlier families and their daughters with a world-class education that will break centuries of cyclical poverty in one generation. The Impact School is no for everyone. Families petition for acceptance and must meet rigid requirements that establish need but also drive. Students receive approximately 300% more schooling compared to public schools, and the school’s culture centers on the idea of connecting talent with opportunity. As Girl Pioneer’s achievements are better known, demand for the service goes up. MAIA has a robust fundraising arm that creates partnerships with diverse individuals and foundations across the world.
Through partnerships, MAIA is working both sides of the equation to ensure that the talent pipeline in Guatemala can bridge longstanding divides. MAIA is working with companies and networks that represent the “opportunity.” Racial divides are deep, as evidenced by genocide during the recent civil ward. MAIA’s ability to create shared value for all stakeholders is essential for the model to thrive.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
MAIA has an international network of institutional funders that range from the IMF to the Alex Honnold Foundation. MAIA is fortunate to have the support of approximately 600 individual donors and a skilled team of fundraisers all based in Guatemala.
In response to the COVID crisis and issues of food security, MAIA is leveraging its organic school garden to also address the need for family gardens. Produce from teh school garden is sold and will eventually cover the expenses of MAIA’s job-training program.
MAIA’s “School in a Box” methodologies and tools have been purchased by the US Peace Corps and other NGOs.
Increased access to tablet technology directly aligns with MAIA’s plans to launch a marketing enterprise. As COVID has shown, there is an essential need for contextualization of information and products. Companies and programs seeking to advertise or market products in rural Guatemala require guidance. MAIA’s emerging radio programs offer an opportunity to market this service to external companies who lack cultural attunement.
Why are you applying to Solve?
As a learning organization, MAIA knows it can always get better. Solve can likely provide access to ideas and support to help create even more visible, evidence-based information and content that demonstrates the power of educating girls.
Solve offers MAIA the opportunity to follow a tangible map forward with its innovation, and to take it to scale to positively impact more girls across Central America.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
Some issues, like girls’ education in Guatemala, have been so neglected for so long that they are almost invisible. Injustice becomes a fact of life. MAIA needs creative though-partnership on how to highlight Girl Pioneer’s voices and talents in a space that has never made room for them.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
Partnership with a technology company that is familiar with tablet technology would help MAIA stay current with relevant applications.
Marketing support to help bring attention to Girl Pioneer achievement would expedite our mission to make the “invisible” visible.
Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The Experian Prize to advance your solution?
Guatemala has the worst gender equity gap in the Americas. This is a measurement of women's access to education and health services as well as her use of political and economic systems. MAIA's Impact School is designed to connect the talents of girls born into quadruple discrimination (nullpoor, rural, female, Maya) with the opportunities of the 21st-century.
MAIA is aware of the critical calibration that must occur between the talent and the opportunity. Guatemala's robust private sector is increasingly aware of the transversal benefits of inclusive employment. However, without any precedent for including young women from rural and indigenous areas, the potential for failure is real. Through its "Ni√±as al Frente" initiative, MAIA is working with NGOs and private sector companies to integrate girl-centered design concepts into this preparation and hiring process. MAIA is supporting the process of putting girls at the center of this conversation (nullrather than deciding and designing for them) to ensure the sustained economic inclusion of the female talent Guatemala desperately needs.
- Mrs Lidia Oxi Chuy Director of Special Projects, MAIA