Rosa del Carmen did not have a childhood.
At two, her father was murdered during Guatemala's armed conflict, which heavily affected her community of Choatulún, San Martín Jilotepeque. As a result, her family faced extreme economic strife. As the only daughter of seven children, she was sent to work in Guatemala City at just nine years old, where she navigated life as a child laborer and experienced frequent food insecurity, completely alone.
She says, “I didn’t have the childhood where there was a right to be a child, a right to study or be able to go play. I was a victim of the armed conflict, losing my father before I could even know him. At that time, they didn’t value girls, they thought that we were not made to study.”
Many of the themes taught in WJI’s Women’s Rights Education Program sparked Rosa del Carmen’s interest. The program helped her overcome some of the emotional difficulties she faces as an adult who cannot read and write. When speaking with her, her intelligence radiates, but she says that she feels self-conscious that she did not receive an education and that she has benefited from the concept of self-esteem taught in the workshops.
“As women, we must love ourselves. I learned that in the workshops. We don’t need someone else to tell us we’re beautiful or of value. We need to know that about ourselves. I did not have the opportunity as a young person to learn [about self-esteem], but I’m thankful that as an adult [through WJI], I did.”
Learning about the rights of a child and the right to education during WJI’s legal literacy course resonated with Rosa del Carmen on a deep level. She feels strongly that she must provide her children with the education she wishes she had.
“In raising my kids, I have fought to give them an education. For both my sons and my daughters, I fight equally for them to study. We have to think and analyze our past experiences, and realize that we do not have to raise our children the same way as our parents raised us.“
She continues, “I feel happy and proud of myself that I am creating a different life for my children. They have the right to be kids–to play, to study, to be healthy. I do not have the attitude of ‘well I suffered, so my children have to suffer too.’ I want to give them the life I didn’t have!”