246952 Finding a voice, enhancing opportunity: Findings from a qualitative study of Guatemalan Mayan women on the intersection of social networks, economic empowerment, and reproductive health

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 3:30 PM

Alexandra Sutton , School of Public Health and Health Services, Dept. of Global Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Genevieve Luippold , School of Public Health and Health Services, Dept. of Global Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Tilly A. Gurman, DrPH , School of Public Health and Health Services, Dept. of Global Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, Malawi
Background: Indigenous young women in Guatemala are disproportionately affected by adolescent pregnancy and poverty. The present qualitative study explores the role which social networks play in both economic empowerment and reproductive health for this marginalized population.

Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews, each lasting 2-3 hours, were conducted with 19 Mayan women (ages 18-40) from Guatemala. Respondents were participants in a reproductive health education women's group that was exploring the idea of expanding its activities to include income generation. Topics addressed in the interviews included personal experience with the women's group, goals for the future, and attitudes towards reproductive health and employment. A Grounded Theory approach was employed for data analysis.

Results: Participants stated that their involvement in the women's group helped them find their voice and provided them with greater self-efficacy to express themselves in public. Respondents expressed that it was through interacting with other young women that they developed greater self confidence. They shared stories of overcoming their fear of speaking to others and ultimately feeling confident addressing respected government officials and community leaders. This confidence extended to reproductive health and economic empowerment, as women described future aspirations of planning for their family and creating fulfilling careers.

Conclusion: Findings confirm that social networks, such as women's groups, can play a positive role in addressing income inequality among Mayan women through modifications in self-efficacy. Findings provide recommendations for future health education programming focused on advancing reproductive health and economic empowerment among indigenous women throughout Latin America and elsewhere.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1.Describe the interaction of social networks and economic engagement 2.Identify the benefits of social networks from a reproductive health perspective 3.Discuss how being involved in a womenís group can increase an individualís self efficacy

Keywords: Indigenous Populations, Public Health Education and Health Promotion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have extensive experience working with indigenous peoples in Guatemala in the area of health education. I also have focused the majority of my MPH studies on reproductive health communication and education issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.