Building peace in the minds of men and women

The power of education. Stories from four continents - Guatemala

Margarita Pelico comes from a family of nine in the village of Los Cipreses, a rural area of Totonicapán, Guatemala where most men are farmers while the women weave. She did not have the chance to go to school when she was a child, but her persistence and trust in the power of education have allowed Margarita to become an entrepreneur in her indigenous community.   

UNESCO supports governments to develop technical and vocational education and skills programmes that are attractive to adolescent girls and women, relevant to labour market needs, and lead to decent work.

As a little girl, Margarita lived next door to her local school and wanted to follow the children she saw on their way to class. Her parents, less convinced that a girl needed education, had to be persuaded. Margarita's school closed down and, by the time it reopened, she was way behind. Aged 13 she discovered a free flexible adult correspondence education programme designed for older girls who missed out. She learned to add and subtract going to the market with her teacher, and to calculate while they were sewing. Determined to pursue her studies, she was able to go on to secondary school and college.


Margarita has successfully started two weaving and embroidery textile factories.

She is also dedicated to train other women to learn how to operate looms and make baskets so that they can support themselves.

Margarita takes great pleasure in dropping her five-year-old son Luis off at the school she used to live next to.

Margarita’s youngest son will follow his big brother’s footsteps.

Schooling is also a passport to better paid work for women. Once Margarita achieved her own success opening two weaving and embroidery textile factories, she decided to train other women to learn how to operate looms and make baskets so that they could support themselves.

Photos: James Rodríguez

This story is part of the UNESCO’s #EducationTransformsLives exhibition, displayed at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during the months of July and august 2019.

The exhibition is organized in partnership with Education Above All, the Qatar Foundation, the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations as well as the co-chairs of the Group of Friends and Lifelong Learning (Argentina, Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and Norway).