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 Our History
 Our Challenge
 About Guatemala
 Financial Summary

Our History

With roots in establishing medical clinics to help the women of third world countries, beginning in Africa in 1983, IMA’s founders were drawn to Guatemala and began the IMA Guatemala School for Girls in 1992 to provide education to girls and women in Guatemala City, Guatemala.  While over the years our methods have changed to meet the needs of the communities we serve, what has remained is our passion for serving underprivileged women and children of the world.

IMA School for Girls in Guatemala owes its success to four influential and passionate women, but one of those woman’s story stands as a triumph in a world that was hostile to her want of a future…

Born into the poverty many Guatemalan girls face, Haydee Abel did not have the advantage of going to a school like IMA; no such place existed. Her home situation was much like those of current IMA girls, living with too many in too little a space, on dirt floors with no running water. But she was able to use energy, creativity and hard work to educate herself well beyond what the average girl born to such a life statistically achieves.  She had something that most girls in Guatemala don’t: parents who encouraged her to learn. This support along with her life-long drive allowed her to rise out of poverty and eventually receive a chemical engineering degree and later an equivalent PhD.

Haydee began a career in the formal economy of Guatemala. She worked for a commercial real estate broker and later owned and operated a construction company designing and building high-rises, and commercial and residential properties. As her success and will to prevail grew, she became a real estate broker herself.  Eventually marrying and raising a family in California, Haydee’s heart and thoughts were never far from the streets of Guatemala where she knew firsthand the struggle with poverty, exploitation, and illiteracy little girls face.

Wanting to provide girls in her native home a chance at the success she attained, she partnered with the established non-profit IMA, initially offering her childhood home as a schoolhouse and later building a new school for IMA’s girls. The funding and construction of IMA’s new school in 2005, was made possible by Haydee and Bill Abel and Procris.

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Our Challenge

According to the World Bank, Guatemala has one of the most unequal income distributions in the hemisphere. As a result, about 51% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 15% on less than $1 a day. Guatemala's social development indicators, such as infant mortality, chronic child malnutrition, and illiteracy, are among the worst in the hemisphere.  The situation is such that USAID now defines Guatemala a Tier 1 priority for grant assistance.

This is particularly hard on women and girls. Denied education and options, girls as young as 8 years old are sold into prostitution. Some turn to dealing drugs or stealing to feed themselves and their families.

Specific Issues for Women and Girls

As reported by Guatemalan Human Rights Commission/USA gender differences in education and literacy pose a big problem. Girls tend to leave pencils and books for weaving, tending animals, and preparation of food.  Sexism and poverty are major factors in the gender gap.  And educating girls is proven to be one of the most effective ways to fight poverty.

Although the recent census shows improvement in female enrollment, it is still the lowest in all of Latin America.

Women form the most marginalized sector of Guatemalan society, suffering from high levels of poverty and violence, abysmal levels of education, difficult if not entirely unavailable access to health care, lack of political representation and ignorance of their rights.  According to the US State Department, Guatemala is the nation of origin for the vast majority of the hemisphere’s sex trafficking. 

Women's inequality has a negative impact on Guatemala 's development, particularly as about a third of Guatemalan households are supported by women. While women represent 50.85% of the Guatemalan population of 13.2 million and 60% of the working population in both formal and informal sectors, they make up only 19% of the economically active population in the formal economy (a minor increase from 14% in 1981). Women have higher unemployment rates than men. Only 22,000 women collect a pension, as compared to 71,000 men. As women all over the world, Guatemalan women often juggle full-time work with childcare and domestic obligations.

Compounding women's lack of access to the formal economy and well-paid positions is their poor educational attainment: UNHCR found the urban literacy rate in 2009 of  Non-Indigenous females was 86% with Indigenous females  55% and the rural Literacy Rate in 2009 of  Non-Indigenous females was 62% and Indigenous females was only 35%.

Women's health in Guatemala is among the worst in the Western Hemisphere. Life expectancy for Guatemalan women is 66.4 years, the lowest in Central America, while maternal mortality—248 deaths per 100,000 as compared to 26 per 100,000 in Costa Rica—is the highest in the region. Women in Guatemala suffer disproportionally from malnutrition and lack of access to health care.

Another problem facing Guatemalan women is violence and discrimination in the home. UNICEF estimates that 76% of all violence against women in Guatemala occurs at home. A woman who wants to participate in the formal economy will often have to obtain permission from her father or husband in order to do so. Indigenous women suffer triple discrimination stemming from their gender, poverty and ethnicity.

Other than the sources noted above the section on “The situation of Guatemalan Women” is taken from Valerie MacNabb’s report on Women's Role in Guatemala's Political Opening and provided by the Central American Analysis Group (CAG).  The entire article can be found in: In Focus, Vol. I, Ed. 11, Guatemala City, Guatemala : 12 October 1998. 

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 About Guatemala

A country of striking features and a strong indigenous culture, Guatemala 's natural beauty and powerful identity stand in stark contrast to its bloody past and troubled present.

Map of Guatemala

Mountainous, heavily forested and dotted with Mayan ruins, lakes, volcanoes, orchids and exotic birds, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries in Central America.

Its indigenous population, the Maya, make up about half of the population. Mayan languages are spoken alongside Spanish, the official tongue. Many Guatemalans are of mixed Amerindian-Hispanic origin.


Facts about Guatemala:

  • Full name: Republic of Guatemala
  • Population: 13 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Guatemala City
  • Major languages: Spanish, more than 20 indigenous languages
  • Major religion: Christianity, indigenous Mayan beliefs
  • Life expectancy: 63 years (men), 71 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 quetzal = 100 centavos
  • Main exports: Coffee, sugar, bananas, fruits and vegetables, meat, petroleum, cardamon
  • GNI per capita: US $2,400 (World Bank, 2006)
    -Internet domain: .gt
  • International dialling code: 502
Guatemala 's beauty and strength of identity have not been accompanied by cohesion and prosperity. In 1996 it emerged from a 36-year-long civil war which pitted leftist, mostly Mayan insurgents against the army, which (backed by the US) waged a vicious campaign to eliminate the guerrillas.

More than 200,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed or disappeared.

Despite an official finding that 93% of all atrocities carried out during the war had been committed by the security forces, moves to bring those responsible to account started only after a long delay.

Guatemalans live in one of the most inequitable societies in the region. Poverty is particularly widespread in the countryside and among indigenous communities.

Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and, in common with many of its neighbors, the country is plagued by organized crime, drug-trafficking and violent street gangs.

The section ”About Guatemala ” was taken from the BBC website at the following link: 

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Financial Summary

At IMA, we adhere to the highest standards of financial accountability. We commit to meeting the needs our students as efficiently as possible, and to using funds only for the purpose specified.  US operations are run entirely by volunteers allowing 94% of IMA funds to go directly to our cause.

IMA's attention to financial credibility is ongoing. We have placed safeguards in our system to assure that money is spent wisely at every stage of our work.  Independent financial audits are conducted annually.  Our Guatemala office withstands the same financial scrutiny as our US headquarters.  In addition, regular program audits are conducted to evaluate for effectiveness.  For specific financial figures and detailed information please contact us.


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