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Holding Hands to Overcome Illiteracy

A Letter from Eliane Menezes, serving in Guatemala

Summer 2022

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Dear siblings in Christ,

Putting oneself in the position of someone who regrettably cannot read or write is really challenging. In certain nations, being a woman entails fighting for one’s opportunities and rights, particularly in a patriarchal environment, and overcoming obstacles to establish oneself as a citizen. Women face a massive obstacle in their quest for a better life for themselves and their families: the need for literacy.

Many women in Guatemala are still in this battle against illiteracy, despite combining efforts to dismantle this problem. Conforming to information from UNESCO, “According to the results of the 2018 Census, the illiteracy rate is 18.5%, equivalent to 2.3 million inhabitants who cannot read or write. Of this figure, women represent 21.7%, making a total of 1,412,813 women without access to education.” (

The National Union of Presbyterian Women of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (UNMP) Board of Directors determined that launching a literacy program for women of all ages was necessary to assist Guatemalan women in their quest for education. Women living in the country’s most isolated and disadvantaged places were especially in need. The UNMP created the literacy project in collaboration with neighborhood churches to assist all women, not only those who attend a particular church.

The local churches, the UNMP and the neighborhoods created solid partnerships. The local church provides classroom space. The UNMP Board of Directors supports a local teacher while the neighborhood women become students and advocates of the program.

In addition, the UNMP supplies a blackboard, a folding table, 20 desks, leaders’ guides for each teacher, didactic material for each student, and travel expenses for members of the UNMP board of directors who oversee the project. The initiative is currently funded by friends, family, and a few church brothers and sisters. 

Horeb Congregation in Pontezuela, Department of Jutiapa, was chosen as the first test site. This small community was selected after the UNMP Board of Directors visited the congregation last year as part of a Bible distribution project.

As several women of this congregation received their first Bible, some said, “Even though I can’t read or write, I will have my grandchildren or someone in my family to read it to me.” The women’s disclosure astounded the members of the UNMP Board of Directors. They were deeply moved and realized how important it was for the women in this neighborhood to be part of the literacy project.  

Horeb Presbyterian Church from Guatemala City has been sponsoring this congregation as a mission endeavor for seven years. Horeb Congregation in Pontezuela collaborates with this initiative and is highly supportive of it. It is led by Pastor Rogelio Chuc, the recently elected vice moderator of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG). Pastor Chuc strongly supported the UNMP ministry and its literacy project, saying, “Patriarchal communities are prevalent in the eastern part of Guatemala. UNMP Board of Directors’ literacy project is significant since it was started by and is being supported by women. Women within and outside our community who see what the UNMP Board of Directors is accomplishing will be inspired to follow suit. They’ll realize that women and girls can also accomplish this. They will understand they are not alone thanks to the encouragement of other sisters.”

On June 18 at Horeb Congregation in Pontezuela, the literacy project’s launch was attended by the UNMP Board of Directors, congregants and members of the local neighborhood. Ten students of various ages make up the first class, and additional students are expected to enroll as time goes on. In the upcoming six months, the members of the UNMP will oversee the initiative. After six months, the UNMP Board of Directors will assess the results and make any necessary modifications to the program.

Ms. Maria Roselia Gomez, the moderator of the UNMP Board of Directors, says, “The literacy project in the community is important for UNMP because it ensures the personal development of the participants as women, as well as in the family, society and the church. She is marginalized simply for being a woman, and even more for not knowing how to read and write.”

Siblings, Christ encourages us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Many Guatemalan women today struggle with illiteracy. Helping our sisters in need is one way to uphold the law of Christ, which is love for our sisters. The UNMP board of directors intends to implement the literacy project in each of the four Sinódicas regions so that more women can benefit from this initiative. We appreciate your prayers and support for this mission.

Many blessings,


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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