Norma Bajan Balan

Country Director

Estrella de Marname

Norma is a fearless leader and change maker. An indigenous woman from a family of 8 children in the rural town of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, Norma overcame deeply ingrained obstacles of misogyny, racism, and poverty to secure her own higher education and realize her potential. She now works tirelessly to afford other young women who come from the same context even more opportunities than she herself had. In a culture where a woman’s value is currently much less than a man’s, Norma serves as proof to her community that women are brilliant, powerful and worthy members of society.

Norma is the type of leader who maintains the utmost respect and trust from her staff while pushing each person to do their best and to face every challenge with energy and positivity. Norma leads with true empathy and servant leadership and does so with grace and humor. A single mom and the Director of a 40-person, rapidly growing organization, Norma is also pursuing a passion for journalism that further expresses her commitment to social justice.

After taking online classes for several years she now writes for the Global Press Journal to raise her empowered voice on issues that she feels deserve attention in her country and in the world. Her articles have been shared across multiple sources and languages.

Norma has worked for Estrella de Mar for seven years as the Country Director, and has 20 years of experience working for NGOs within the realms of education and microcredit. She is also a founding member of the Lake Atitlán Rotary Club, is a Centroamérica Adelante Fellow, and has been invited to the White House in Washington, D.C. on two separate occasions to honor her work with women and girls. Norma was the first person in her community to graduate from college as she obtained a degree in Business Administration, and she later went on to graduate from the Association for Leadership in Guatemala.

A colleague says of Norma:

Norma is my personal hero and biggest role model. She embodies and exudes bravery, resilience, strength, and purpose in a way that not only inspires those around her but also upholds the integrity of her culture while breaking down barriers to shift the paradigm for indigenous women in Guatemala.

With Norma’s continued leadership and courage, Estrella de Mar is uniquely positioned to show Guatemala the incredible impact of investing in a girl’s potential. As an organization, Starfish & Estrella de Mar measure success on the depth of our impact rather than its breadth, not only for our students but for our leaders as well. We ask, “how far will she go?” Norma demonstrates to our team, students, and the families & communities she works with that women are built to lead Guatemala, and they aim to do so.