Guatemala: Sister Salons for Guatemala

The Problem: ©Natalia Caruso

MADRE partners with the Women Workers Committee, a grassroots group in the neglected Barcenas neighborhood, just outside of Guatemala City. Women there say that poverty and violence are the two biggest threats they face.  

Sandra Gonzalez, the director of the Women Workers Committee, hears these stories every day. One day, a woman visited Sandra to show the bruises from her husband’s beatings. The woman said her husband allowed her to go almost nowhere but the hair salon, something Sandra had heard from other abused women. The woman said reporting her husband to the police was pointless because they would never investigate.

The next day, another woman came to Sandra burdened by fears of not being able to feed her children. She said she had eaten nothing that day so that there could be enough for her daughters. Like many in Barcenas, the woman had been searching for work for years.  

Sandra knew that these women were not the only ones in crisis. Together with MADRE, she devised an innovative solution: Sister Salons.

The Solution:

MADRE and the Women Workers Committee will build a hair salon in Barcenas. Here, women will find a way to escape violence and poverty. The hair salon will provide job training in hair styling and help with job placement. It will also provide training in domestic violence intervention strategies, allowing newly-trained hair stylists to become counselors for their clients.

Job Training: Participants will receive weekly vocational lessons from a professional hairstylist. They will also learn job-search skills, such as interview practices. Women who complete a year of training will receive a hair stylist’s certificate and a letter of reference from instructor.

Peer Counseling Training: Participants will receive peer counseling training to enable them to recognize signs of abuse in their salon clients, offer counseling and connect them to services.  Counseling instruction will take place once a month, led by a psychologist from Barcenas who specializes in treating survivors of domestic violence.

Fighting Violence against Women: Sister Salons will provide a safe space for women to discuss the violence they endure. Our partners will encourage women to report instances of abuse and provide moral and legal support for those who do.  

MADRE will work to make sure that local police, hospitals and the government treat domestic violence as a serious crime and a violation of women’s human rights.

The Results:

  • Women facing abuse and violence receive support and counseling.
  • Women acquire professional hair-styling skills that enable them to earn an income and build economic self-sufficiency.
  • Women are trained by professionals with new skills to support abused women in Barcenas.
  • Guatemalan women organize to combat violence against women.