We’ve officially entered, make that pounced into the season of gift giving! This is the time when we run around looking for gifts for a long list of people – some we put endless thought and energy into finding the perfect gift, while for others we stock up on a few “good” gifts that can be presented to a coworker, a party host or a fellow gift exchange participant.
This year consider purchasing an artisan-made gift that will truly “give back.” When you choose to purchase a gift from Mayamam Weavers, you significantly impact the community of Cajolá in Guatemala by supporting a group of indigenous women artisans who are also mothers, daughters and sisters. In a community where 94% of the population is poor and there is virtually no employment outside of the school or public health system, the members of this all-women cooperative are able to earn a fair wage, care for their families, learn business skills and further (in some cases begin) their education, all because of your purchase.
In Cajolá, 77% of the economy is agricultural. Some families cobble together some income from small stores within their houses and weaving the traditional clothing of Cajolá. There is simply not enough economic opportunities to make a living which is why so many migrate from this area. About 35% of Cajolenses live in the USA. When women need to migrate to find income they leave behind their children and families – a decision many Americans would find virtually impossible to make. Working for the cooperative, however, is a sustainable long term solution, preventing the need to leave their home.
Some of the women in the cooperative are the only breadwinners at home – it is imperative that they earn fair wages to be able to feed their families which often time include their parents and their children under the same roof. After agriculture, construction day work is the next most common employment. A construction worker earns about $1.25 an hour on the days that he does work. A skilled worker earns $1.67/hour when he works, and the supervisor earns about $2/hour on the days that he works. The members of the Mayamam Weaving Cooperative have flexible working hours and are required to work a minimum of 20 hours/week. The women are paid for the work that they do and the average worker earns approximately $1.50/hour and the most skilled earn approximately $2/hour. (Data based on 2015)
In addition to job skills training specific to the position each woman in the group has, Mayamam Weavers also stresses the importance of their literacy program. Since more than half of the women had never had the opportunity to attend school, daily literacy classes are offered on site with a program qualified by the Education Ministry that offers certification to the women so they can advance their education. The women are required to participate until they complete primary school level. All of the women and their children are eligible for scholarship assistance to study beyond the primary school level. This past year, scholarships were awarded to a weaver studying at the primary level, one studying at the middle school level, one at the high school level and 3 weavers studying at the university level!
As members of the Mayamam cooperative, the women have flexible working hours to accommodate their home responsibilities (such as preparing lunch for their families). They are also able to send their children to XNQ Preschool where they have a rich environment for child development and a focus developing parenting skills – all for free.
Mayamam Weavers is proud to bring you products that are handmade, that reflect their history and their culture but have been influenced by modern design. When you make a purchase this holiday season, think of it as giving twice. You purchase a beautiful (and in some cases one of a kind) handwoven gift to give to a loved one while continuing to empower indigenous women in rural Guatemala, allowing them to continue to live in their home town, earn a fair wage and educate themselves.
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