Reconstructing masculinity with boys and young men in Guatemala

By Global Fund for Children | February 22, 2023 | The Americas | Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

Editor’s note: This blog post was co-written by the SERniño team (Josue Socoreque, Mauricio Táquez, and Luis Erick Rachón) of Asociación SERniña; Eugenia Vigil, Young Fellow at Global Fund for Children; and Rodrigo Barraza, Regional Co-Director for the Americas at Global Fund for Children. It is also available in Spanish.

Global Fund for Children partner Asociación SERniña (REALgirl) is a community-based organization located in Antigua, Guatemala, that is committed to promoting gender equality and empowering children and young people to reach their full potential.

In partnership with local schools and community groups in the departments of Chimaltenango and Sacatepéquez, SERniña facilitates workshops on gender equality, leadership skills, and healthy masculinities, among other important topics.

Co-Founders Danielle Skogen and Anea Bogue decided to create Asociación SERniña in 2014 with the primary objective of fighting persistent gender inequality in several communities in Sacatepéquez by developing leadership and holistic education programs specifically directed at girls and young women.

After a year of continuous work, the need to include boys and young men in the fight for gender justice became evident. Soon, SERniña understood that machismo is a global epidemic that destroys any attempt to form healthy and positive human relationships, and that it is crucial to include men in practices and conversations aimed at eradicating it. Boys have to understand the valuable role and contributions of women, as well as the value of working as partners rather than from a position of power and control over others.

Two rows of people lie on the ground, back to back, with their arms raised into the air. Together, they're lifting up another person, in a trust-building workshop activity.

An activity focused on caring for and supporting each other at the HEEL convening in Guatemala. © Asociación SERniña

This is how, together with Erik Pocasangre, the SERniño (REALboy) program was created. After a year of learning and ups and downs, Luis Erick Rachón and Erik Pocasangre decided to create a new program called SerLider (REALleader), with the primary objective of transferring individual dialogues and learning to the community sphere.

One of the first things SERniña learned when working with boys and young men was the need to generate strategies of integral accompaniment based on tenderness and play. Through deep discussion and caring understanding, Asociación SERniña in Guatemala is accompanying boys and young men to reject the destructive machismo they grew up with, learn new positive patterns and behaviors, and promote healthy masculinities in their communities. As the SERniño team described it:

“The first thing we realized is that boys, in addition to being understood, need to be accompanied and cared for in the activation of self-knowledge processes that allow them to identify macho practices in order to eliminate them from their lives. It is essential for boys to recover tenderness in masculinity and access and recognize their spirituality, culture, and emotions.”

 Three men posing for a photo

The SERniño team in 2022: Josue Socoreque, Mauricio Táquez, and Luis Erick Rachón. © Asociación SERniña

For SERniño team members, there are also significant personal learnings. In the words of Luis Erick Rachón:

“Personally, since I came to work at SERniña, my thoughts, attitudes, actions, and behavior about masculinity have changed. I have been in a constant deconstruction of the hegemonic masculinity I grew up with.”

As part of its effort to continue generating spaces for the collective construction of learning and mutual recognition in the work for gender justice and the promotion of healthy masculinities in the Mesoamerican region, SERniña began a collaboration with GFC in 2021.

In 2022, with GFC’s support, SERniña started the Laboratorio de Masculinidades Jóvenes (Young Masculinities Lab) initiative to nurture the ideas and contributions of boys and young men and inspire them become community leaders and promoters of healthy masculinities. The aim is to listen to their voices, understand their pain, and accompany them in their personal and collective searches through loving listening and without judgment. To offer a space of liberation to express emotions, strengthen self-esteem, engage in critical reflection, and identify new community commonalities and dialogues.

Participant reading a book

A HEEL convening participant reading a book produced by Asociación SERniña. © GFC

For the SERniño team,

“The most exciting part of this initiative is to see how the boys are embracing leadership within their communities and within their groups of friends because of the learnings they gained in SERniña programs. We are excited to see the physical, emotional, and mental growth of some of the participants with whom we keep in touch.”

In 2022, together with the network of Jóvenes Artistas por la Justicia Social (JAXJS) and GFC, SERniña co-hosted and co-organized the regional convening “Other Ways of Being, Other Ways of Caring,” which allowed members of the Promoting Youth Leadership for Gender Justice initiative, also known as HEEL (which means “care” in Mayan), to meet and exchange approaches, methodologies, frustrations, dreams, and hopes.

For the SERniño team, one of the main lessons learned from this convening was that art is a form of advocacy:

“Art is not only music, painting and dance, it’s creating content for social networks, a new format for sharing information, speaking in front of young people. Teaching while playing is also art. Art, then, is to create changes in the participants and in their communities.”

For GFC, it was very exciting to see the participants connect and learn from each other. During our convening, we all realized that we are connected by this pursuit to fight violence and to be better. And on this path, sometimes full of doubts and difficulties, we know that we are not alone. As the SERniño team mentions, we also know that:

“The work of promoting healthy masculinities is an unmarked path, without signposts, without guides, without magic formulas. The important thing is not to lose hope and to recognize the victories and celebrate the changes we see in our families and communities, no matter how small.”

Thanks to Asociación SERniña for inspiring us and giving us hope.



The Promoting Youth Leadership for Gender Justice initiative, also known as the HEEL initiative, is a partnership between the Summit Foundationthe Kendeda Fund, and GFC.

Header photo: Community-based partners in the HEEL initiative taking part in the first HEEL convening in Xela, Guatemala. © GFC

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