Innovator Spotlight: Juana Imelda Hernandez Mendoza

Juana Imelda Hernandez Mendoza is the coordinator of a business center in the Rija’tzuul Na’ooj Community Library in Guatemala. The business center is a new space for women artisans to learn to use the internet and get entrepreneurship advice.

BA: What’s the role of the business center?

Women have always suffered from discrimination in our community. This has led to fewer educational opportunities and almost no access technology for them. With the hope of bridging the technology gap, the library created a place where women can receive digital training to develop their economic opportunities, boost their independence, and improve their quality of life.

BA: What are some challenges you have faced in your work? How did you overcome them?

We have encountered many obstacles. The first was that some women in our community said they didn’t have time to go to the library because they had to perform all the traditional tasks of housekeeping and caring for their families. Gradually, we educated the women in our community and their families about taking time to go to the center to use the computers.

The next challenge was to overcome discrimination toward indigenous women. Our culture is very male-dominated, and it was difficult for some people to accept the importance of women learning how to use digital tools and acquire knowledge about entrepreneurship. To address the problem, we worked with community organizations and 28 women’s cooperatives in the area to teach the importance of knowing how to use a computer, surf the internet and use social media to further their families’ economic futures.

BA: What do you think the role of libraries should be within communities?

The role of a library in the community is very important. It is a place where people find not only books, but also experiences, activities and opportunities for a better life.