The Impact of Education
Education is one of the best tools to reduce poverty in the world. Fair Trade supports the importance of education by having one of the principles be “ensuring the rights of children.” Fair trade standards prohibit child labor giving children a greater chance at getting an education.
When Mayamam Weavers was first formed, none of the original members had much education. Imagine living in a world where you can’t read the spec sheets for what needs to be done at your job, you can’t read signs on the street or even in the signs in a store. Initially at Mayamam Weavers, fingerprints had to be used for those that didn’t know how to write or to sign their names. The women were required to stay after work and take literacy classes in order to reach a minimum level of a 6th grade education. As one by one, they reached that level, some decided to continue attending higher schools while others appreciated where they were at and how far they had come.
The quality of education offered by the public school system in Cajola is truly abysmal. The members of the cooperative have several valuable educational opportunities for their families that they can take advantage of. Any members of the cooperative can send their children to our amazing Reggio-Emilia style preschool, XNQ.
Members may also take advantage of the Learning Center, where primary age children attend daily for help with their homework and invaluable help in improving (or gaining) reading or math skills. The women and their families also have access to a scholarship program that covers a significant amount of the cost of school, transportation, books and supplies for those that wish to continue studying.
One of our seamstresses, Celia took advantage of that scholarship program and had her son apply in order to attend college. After he was finished, she decided she wanted to complete her middle school education. She had dropped out of her studies to get married and to raise a family. Now that she and her husband had made sure their children had had access to education, she decided it was her turn. You can imagine it is not that easy to add studying to your busy role as a mother and as a seamstress, but she obtained her adult school diploma within a year. After that, she proposed to study fashion design at the technical school in Quetzaltenango. She was able to make an agreement with her coworkers to work on the weekends to complete her work while still allowing time to attend classes and complete homework during the week. Shortly before receiving her diploma, she began to share some of her new knowledge with her coworkers. She had learned many things about sourcing materials, using an industrial sewing machine, making patterns, along with sewing techniques. They proposed a newly created position as Coordinator of New Product Development, and Celia accepted.
Celia’s investment of her time and money, supported by her scholarship, opened up a new opportunity for her (along with higher earnings) in the cooperative. In addition, Mayamam Weavers in the U.S. now has excellent collaboration in new product design. Celia’s proposals and solutions contribute to the high quality of our products and is felt by everyone. Celia's education is just one example of the impact that education has had on the cooperative.