January 24, 2020 1 Comment
As a business grows year over year, every year is better than the one before (when everything goes according to plan). 2019 was no exception. It was a year that we grew as we learned new skills in both weaving and in business, that we cared for our families, that we looked for new ways to protect our planet and that we celebrated successes together.
Part of moving forward into a new year (and decade!), means looking back and reviewing where you came from, what you did right and what direction to head in. As an all-female cooperative, the impact of a successful year has a widespread effect on not only the members individually but on their families and communities as well. In total, our 28 members care for 39 young children and 3 elderly parents between them. Just think, when the women are paid fair wages, they are able to buy food and medicine for their children and send them to school. When the children are properly nourished, they are able to go to school and learn. With an education, they are able to earn a better income that they can use to purchase things from people and businesses in their own communities and the impact continues to spread.
While it is common for women in Guatemala to stop attending school at a very young age to work taking care of the house or working in the fields, we do recognize how powerful education is. It’s exciting to share that Celia, one of the seamstresses, used the scholarship program to study fashion design. She has already made significant contributions to the design of new products based on new skills she has learned through her studies. Yumara, one of the foot loom weavers is using a scholarship to study mathematics in college.
The cooperative, which goes by the name of Tejadoras Mayamam in Guatemala, is managing the business independently through a marketing council with representatives from each of the work areas; backstrap weaving, foot loom weaving and seamstresses plus quality control, sales & marketing, production, and finance coordinators. Together, they work out strategies to solve problems and to make decisions that benefit the whole group.
FUNDAP, a non-profit organization in Guatemala that seeks to eradicate poverty by providing support and education/training to lower income people and communities, has provided our weaving cooperative with training and workshops to build on the existing skills of the members. In 2019, FUNDAP trained the women to improve their business and organizational skills, manage software programs and facilitated a meaningful series of workshop on self-esteem. FUNDAP also financed training on jaspeado which is the process of tying and dying the yarn before weaving it. Similar to ikat, beautiful patterns form in the fabric as it’s woven. We’re looking forward to showing off their jaspeado skills some time in 2020!
And caring for our planet in 2019 has been embraced. After a few workshops about environmental issues, the women’s concerns for protecting the planet grew. How could they best address climate change? They believe in the ideal that every small decision has an impact and that we are making a difference with each of our “small steps.” They planted saplings to replace the trees cut down for kitchen firewood. They are selling the ends of fabric rolls (their scraps) to individuals and sewing groups in the area to prevent the fabric from becoming waste. The women have eliminated the use of plastic bags, trading them in for fabric tote bags. When the women gather for a meal together they bring their own dishware and wrap the food in banana leaves to preserve its freshness instead of plastic or foil.
And finally, a day trip to the coast at the end of the year was a great way to recognize the accomplishments of 2019. This (generally) cohesive team worked together through the year and chose to celebrate together too! If 2019 is a sign of what's to come, then 2020 is looking bright!
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