Global Fund for Children launches initiative to support Mayan girls in Yucatán, Mexico, to exercise their voices, agency, and rights.

February 20, 2024 | GFC & Partner Updates, Press Releases

The U múukil xchu ́upalo ́ob (Niñas Valientes/Brave Girls) Initiative is dedicated to providing Indigenous adolescent girls in southern Mexico with meaningful opportunities to enhance their skills and overcome gender-based and sociocultural obstacles that hinder their progress, specifically in education.

This initiative will provide multi-year flexible grants and capacity development opportunities to grassroots organizations that are investing in the safe, healthy, and holistic development of Mayan adolescent girls in Yucatán, Mexico.

A girl speaking during a youth workshop at Voces Mesoamericanas Acción con Pueblos Migrantes A.C. © GFC

Mexico is a diverse society with 68 ethnic groups and 287 linguistic variants. However, the vast majority of Indigenous populations in the country are disenfranchised. These communities have endured a long history of oppression and exclusion, and the lingering effects of colonialism continue to shape their experiences. While challenges persist, their ongoing fight for justice and autonomy showcases their unwavering commitment to preserving their heritage and securing a better present and future.

Indigenous populations in Mexico face significant challenges to getting an education, including linguistic barriers, restricted school access, and lower educational achievements compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. Mayan girls are particularly affected, due to increased gender discrimination and societal expectations and norms.

“At Global Fund for Children, we create inclusive spaces that power growth and equal access to education,” said GFC President and CEO John Hecklinger. “This initiative creates opportunity and new pathways to education so that Mayan girls and women reach their fullest potential – and in the process transform the narrative around gender justice in their community.”

With over two decades of experience supporting educational initiatives and promoting gender equality in Mayan communities in Mexico and Central America, GFC recognizes the importance of recovering and strengthening Indigenous identities to advance the rights of Indigenous children and young people.

The Brave Girls Initiative will provide support to grassroots organizations and movements that are strengthening educational efforts and systems to honor and dignify the experiences of Indigenous girls. The initiative will implement culturally appropriate gender-transformative approaches and engage in dynamic regional advocacy work. It will empower girls to find their voices, exercise agency, and assert their rights within their communities and beyond.

GFC deeply believes in power-shifting, participatory, and collective decision-making processes. In keeping with this commitment, we have created a partner selection committee for the initiative that includes civil society leaders, youth leaders, and activists from Indigenous communities in the region to participate directly in the partner selection process. In addition, this initiative will have an independent Advisory Council to providing important feedback to the GFC team.

Under this initiative, GFC and our partners will also create spaces of mutual learning and offer new programs to address critical topics such as coping with trauma, cultural recovery, community education, and life skills development. The initiative will utilize listening mechanisms and feedback loops for partners to integrate Indigenous adolescent girls’ opinions and experiences in the design of both ongoing and new programs.



Global Fund for Children partners with local organizations around the world, helping them deepen their impact on the lives of children and youth and develop their capacity for social change. By pairing flexible funding with targeted capacity development services, we support community-led groups to shift social norms, policies, and practices to foster lasting change for children and youth. Since 1997, we have invested $56 million in more than 1,000 organizations worldwide.

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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