Hartford will always remember a conversation she had with a Guatemalan woman during her time abroad early this summer. The woman shared her story about income disparity in her community, which is one dependent on agriculture, specifically banana and plantain production, Hartford says.
“We talked a lot about income disparity and women’s rights,” Hartford recalls. “For instance, a man working in a day would make about 30 quetzals—around $3.75 for an 8-to-10 hour day that includes very rigorous work—while a woman doing the same work would make about 12 quetzals, or $1.50.”
“For women without partners, it’s almost impossible to take care of a family holding one job, or even survive,” she says.
Hartford spent one month in Guatemala thanks to a travel research grant from the Greater Philadelphia Latin American Studies Consortium. While there, she worked with the nonprofit organization Desarrollo Sostenible de Guatemala (DESGUA) to understand the circumstances that influence female leadership in community development and politics.
“That woman’s story is not uncommon,” Hartford says. “There is a tense atmosphere in Guatemala for women’s rights, and for having women in politics at all.”
DESGUA works to find employment opportunities for Guatemalan women, and also seeks educational programs for ex-migrants and ex-guerilla fighters that have been ostracized.
“I don’t think I learned how to truly understand people until I was with them and learned of their experiences firsthand,” says Hartford, who spent the spring 2017 semester in Costa Rica studying sustainability and conservation while serving as a teaching assistant for seventh graders using environmental studies as a channel for art.
“Now more than ever I want to work in a place where I can be in direct contact with the people I am working with and advocating for,” she says. “I would love to work with immigrant communities in the United States or abroad, and I think it’s important to bring to light both the success and progress that’s occurring in certain regions, as well as the challenges.”