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Our story


MuJER was born in January 2005 when Jodi Finkel, heard a program on National Public Radio about the plight of a group of prostitutes in Guatemala City, Guatemala.  One of the women interviewed, Susie Sika, a 41-year-old mother of seven children, stated that her dream was to learn to read.  Inspired by her story, MuJER’s founders decided to create a literacy program in Guatemala’s red light district, known as La Linea, to enable Susi—as well as all other women in her circumstances—to learn to read. Since that time, MuJER has evolved from a literacy program in one red light district to a multifaceted support system for hundreds of sex workers throughout Guatemala.  We opened our Empowerment Center in downtown Guatemala in 2009. Our programs are developed in consultation with women from the sex worker community and today our in-country staff is composed of all Guatemalan nationals.

Upon our arrival at La Linea, we were viewed with scepticism; the women doubted we would stay more than a few months and therefore were not interested in participating in our literacy program. Day after day, MuJER’s two staff members visited the red light district and earned the women’s trust. As the relationships developed, the women opened up, revealing their real names and personal stories. A MuJER staff member continues to meet weekly with the women of La Linea, and this year we expanded our services to include personal visits with women at two other red light district in Guatemala City, El Trebol and Parque Concordia.

With the trust developed through our personal relationships with individual women—and with the support of our partner organizations— we have been able to encourage sex workers to stand up for themselves. Women from our community have participated in national and international events and forums related to the rights of sex workers, legislation affecting prostitution, and domestic anti-violence campaigns. MuJER also offers group workshops on violence prevention as well as leadership development programs to train sex workers to speak out on behalf of their rights. We are creating a local advisory council, composed of the women themselves, to help with the development of new programs.





Susi, having learned to read in our one-on-one literacy classes, can help her children with their homework and is attending a one-year Sewing and Tailoring program courtesy of a MuJER Scholarship.  Elizabeth, having participated in our jewelry workshops, now has a small jewelry business and creates her own designs. Paola, having finished sixth grade with us, is in nursing school, as our eight other women from our community.

MuJER relies on a unique strategy of partnering with the women of the sex worker community to develop our programming.  When we arrived in Guatemala, we began visiting the red light district to win the women’s trust.  After two months, Vilma, our first student, asked to learn to read with us.  As we won the trust or more women, they also began to take our class.  Additionally, they asked for other classes: completion of elementary school, vocational classes, and computer classes.  MuJER prides itself on listening to, and responding to, the women of our community.

As we began providing women with new skills, we came to see that offering classes would not be enough to enable women to enjoy better choices.  The women also needed to believe that deserved more.   Thus, MuJER began to focus on issues of self-esteem, personal dignity, women’s rights, and leadership.  In fact, is often as a member of “MuJER” that Guatemalan sex workers become active in promoting their rights as well as the rights of others in the sex worker community.



MuJER is a non-profit organization with 501(c)3 status. Our Internal Revenue Code-Federal ID # is 26-2651100.