Empowering Girls Through Paraguay Okakuaa on International Day of the Girl

Chris Henry, Communications Intern


In honor of the International Day of the Girl, we are celebrating Partners of the Americas’ (Partners) U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL)-funded Paraguay Okakuaa project that combats child labor and forced labor in Paraguay by empowering vulnerable families through educational and economic opportunities, with a special focus on women and girls. 

The United Nations created the International Day of the Girl in 2012 to raise awareness about issues faced by girls around the world, including inaccessibility to education, human trafficking, forced child marriage, legal rights, and medical rights. 

Among the most pressing challenges affecting the lives of girls today is child labor, which Partners’ Paraguay Okakuaa project has fought since 2015 in Paraguay’s Department of Guairá. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, this agricultural region has witnessed frequent labor violations in recent years including the use of child labor, unregistered adolescent labor, and disregard for minimum wage laws. The project also implements activities in the Department of Boquerón to improve labor law compliance and acceptable working conditions with a focus on preventing and combating forced labor.    

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High poverty levels and a lack of education and cultural practices can cause many rural women and girls to drop out of school. They then may seek work in cities and fall prey to human trafficking, forced labor, and child labor. Paraguay Okakuaa aims to combat these problems by providing educational after-school programs with priority enrollment for girls and women. These programs are designed to help beneficiaries stay in school and equip them with the tools and skills needed to manage the socio-cultural contexts in which they live. As of 2018, 999 children aged 5-10 and 2,323 youth aged 11-17 years old have been successfully enrolled in the services offered by Paraguay Okakuaa. 

Espacios para Creer (EpCs), offered to beneficiaries ages 5-10 years old, is an evidence-based methodology used throughout the Americas to improve educational outcomes and teach vulnerable children how to learn and develop as individuals. Through dynamic sessions implemented during the half-day when formal classes are not held, children increase skills in reading, writing, and math, and develop a positive self-image and a vision for their lives. 

For children and adolescents 11-17 years old, Paraguay Okakuaa offers after school activities centered on 4-H Clubs, a renowned program that develops future leaders and innovators by providing opportunities for children and youth to learn by doing. 

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Central to the project is gender empowerment. Paraguay Okakuaa aims to nurture girls’ leadership skills and self-confidence by providing safe spaces for them to discuss the challenges they experience and connecting them with a support network of successful female mentors from local communities. By doing so, they help women and girls plan and achieve their personal and professional goals. 

Through Paraguay Okakuaa and other Partners initiatives, we continue to strive for all women and girls to lead safe, healthy, and fulfilling lives.