Empowering Women Through Design in Rural Peru

Jun 20, 2014

Welcome, Martha!

Welcome Martha, the Knit Production Coordinator!
Welcome Martha, the Knit Production Coordinator!

Dear GlobalGiving Donors,

Thank you for your continuous support and donations to our project of “Empowering Women Through Design in Rural Peru”. We have an exciting announcement to make!

Martha, from our Rumira knitting cooperative, has joined the Awamaki team as our knit production coordinator! Martha is a talented knitter and the treasurer of the Rumira cooperative. At Awamaki, we try to carry out our mission in all aspects of our work, and that means hiring and training staff from the communities we serve. We are training Martha to do knitting design and technical design so that she can work with volunteers to ensure their designs come out correctly. She is also doing quality control for all knit and handspun products, which means managing three different cooperatives! 

By training Martha to create and teach knit designs, we are paving the way for the women artisans to keep taking leadership with product design. “I enjoy working for Awamaki and learning and sharing my experiences with others here. I’m very happy here.”

Please send us your best wishes to help us welcome Martha to our team!

Mar 24, 2014

Awamaki's women take on new roles!

Dear GlobalGiving donors,

I am writing to thank you for your generous donations to our project and to share with you the incredible progress we’ve made with the members of our Women’s Fair Trade Cooperative Program. At Awamaki, we view the exercise of gratitude as an important and humbling exchange that reminds us of how far we’ve come and what our aspirations are in the coming months. Since the infancy of this project, your donations have been used not only to preserve traditional Andean weaving methods and textile designs, but also to remind the members of our cooperatives that their beautiful, handmade, products are continuously treasured and appreciated by others.

Our work at Awamaki Lab is a collaborative effort between the resident designers, the Quechua women in our weaving cooperatives, and the local seamstresses who work in Ollanta. Every season we are challenged to reinterpret the traditional, and this coming fall is no exception. Awamaki Lab and its cooperative partners are already hard at work re-designing products from our previous collections. As Awamaki Lab’s reputation continues to grow, and the number of customized orders increases, it’s important that our growing clientele understands the integrity and traditions behind the symbols in the products they request. Awamaki has taken it upon themselves to define the symbols and patterns found within the traditional Andean designs called pallay. Pallay is a Quechua word that refers to the motions and mechanics of warp faced weaving on a back strap loom. However, pallay is also the terminology for the graphic designs woven into each product. As there is no official record or definition for each pallay symbol, the Awamaki designers are collaborating with the Quechan women to compile a “look-book” with the definitions and symbolism for each pallay design. With the help of your donations, we would like to publish a physical book to be displayed in Awamaki’s fair trade store, and to also have a downloadable version available on our website to provide our clientele with a greater appreciation for the products they order and purchase.

In other news, Awamaki Lab is entrusting the members of our weaving cooperatives with additional responsibilities. Each woman is now required to personally sew tags with the product description and her name into the items she has made. In doing so, we hope the women will feel a greater sense of empowerment knowing that their work is correctly attributed to each of the artisans. To our donors who have supported us by buying the items that are made by these talented women, you are supporting their livelihoods and providing them with a regular source of income. Of equal importance is the fact that you’re helping to preserve the beautiful Andean textiles so that they may continue to be admired and treasured by generations to come.

When you make a donation to Awamaki you help in two important ways: your contributions to the specific project of “Empowering Women Through Design in Rural Peru” help us empower talented women to realize their true artistic potential; your contributions to Awamaki as an entire organization help us to successfully run our programs while always looking for ways to expand our impact and reach within the Sacred Valley region.

The Awamaki staff, and members of our cooperatives, thank you for your interest. We look forward to keeping you updated on our progress!

Dec 30, 2013

Happy New Year from Justa

Justa and Efrain in the office
Justa and Efrain in the office

Justa is a lady with gumption. She is from the community of Rumira, a half hour from Ollantaytambo. Before working with Awamaki, Justa did everything she could to provide for her son, Efraim, 4. She sold knit goods in the plaza of Ollantaytambo to bring in a little money. She even worked as a transportista, or combi driver, which is unheard of for a woman. Transportistas drive the small vans that careen down Peru's highways, stuffed to the brim with people, animals and goods, charging about 1.5 soles, or 40 cents, for a half-hour trip. 

Justa now works as a seamstress with Awamaki. She takes the weavings made by women in Awamaki's weaving cooperative and sews iPad cases, tote bags and mini skirts for sale in the U.S. In her time at Awamaki, she has learned skills in sewing, pattern-making, and design.

Justa says her work with Awamaki is much more dependable than that as a transportista, and she can bring her son to work when she needs to. Justa can often be found at the office at five in the morning, getting a head start on her day's work so she can be home with Efrain during the day. "Now that I have steady work, I can give a better life to my son," she says. She is saving money from her wages to put towards his future education.  

Whether it's food, health care or schooling, Justa knows what Efraim needs. Your donation allows us to teach her the skills required for her to earn money to meet those needs. In 2014, we aim to add 20 more women to our programs. We also aim to begin administration training with them so that they can progress towards being successful, independent business women.

Your donations fund this skills empowerment. As we build these skills, we can increasingly connect women to market opportunities so that they can earn income. The women do the rest. They invest in their families's nutrition, in their kids' education, in concrete floors and warm clothes for the cold Andean winter. They tranform their communities and lift their families out of poverty, woman by woman, household by household. 

Please contribute to Awamaki today and give a sustainable, prosperous future to Justa and more women like her.

Thank you so much and best wishes for a new year!

Justa at work
Justa at work
Dec 3, 2013

Thank you and a video from Awamaki

Weavers attend conference in Cusco
Weavers attend conference in Cusco

Dear donors, 

This year at Awamaki, we are thankful for you. You provide us the funds to give women the skills and opportunity to earn an income and lift their families out of poverty. You believe in us and you invest in our women and their potential. Thanks to you, this year we have: 

  • Provided high-quality skills training enabling our knitters to produce knitwear that is internationally desirable
  • Helped our knitters, weavers and seamstresses sell their products to global retailers (from Zappos to ABC Carpet to mom-and-pop fair trade stores all over the U.S.) and through our brand new online store!
  • Run out of knitwear and thus added a new knitting cooperative of 20 women!
  • Helped our spinners purchase spinning machines so they can spin more and better yarn for international markets, and run trainings on how to produce those yarns
  • Hosted two volunteer designers to work alongside our seamstresses and together design new products that combine our woven textiles with locally-made leather for next years' collections
  • Sent teams of staff and volunteers into the field to conduct surveys, interviews and focus groups with all the women with whom we work so that we can better understand their household economies, serve their needs, and help them meet their financial goals.

We couldn't do this without you, and that's why we made this thank you video

Thank you, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Volunteer designers at work in studio
Volunteer designers at work in studio
Online store goes live!
Online store goes live!


Sep 9, 2013

Awamaki's cooperatives learn color theory and measurement!

Color theory workshop in Patacancha
Color theory workshop in Patacancha

Since our last update, Awamaki’s women’s weaving cooperatives have been busy learning new design skills! Over the past few months, the women in the rural communities of Patacancha and Kelkanka have been learning about color theory and measurement. As Awamaki continues to organize training workshops for the women of our weaving cooperatives so that they can produce internationally marketable products, we in turn learn more about how and why the women design their textiles the way they do, with specific inconography and colors.  This is a great example of the intercultural connections that Awamaki fosters. 

During the recent color theory workshops in Patacancha, Awamaki’s most recent Resident Designer, Tara Gainer, taught the women about the color wheel, and organized hands-on activities with the women to explore their perceptions of different colors and color combinations. The women worked as a group to assign a Quechua name to each color on the color wheel, setting standard names that will now be used between Awamaki and the cooperative to better communicate special orders. This exercise also allowed Tara to teach the women basic descriptive Spanish words for the colors, such as bright and dull. By keeping all of the women on the same page with standard vocabulary, product consistency and quality control will be easier to implement.

Awamaki’s Quality Control Coordinator and Product Designer, Tessa Ranish-O’Donnell, has been in Kelkanka recently, teaching the women about measurement. At the beginning of the workshop, Tessa learned that most of the women didn’t even have their own tape measures, and they had been visually estimating the size of their textiles, which had been creating inconsistencies in size. Tessa reviewed basic counting and measuring skills with the women, and made each woman her own tape measure. Now, the women will continue to practice measuring their own textiles with the president of the cooperative. The president will then be checking the length and width of each textile before it is turned into Awamaki for sale, making sure that consistent sizes are being used.

Workshops and skill building exercises like the color theory and measurement workshop would not be possible without the continued support of Awamaki’s donors like you. By donating money to Awamaki for specific projects, our staff, volunteers, and the women of our cooperatives have the resources they need to continue improving their skills and expanding their markets. As the women gain new expertise, their products become ready for international sale, extending the economic opportunities for the women and giving them a chance to earn more money to support their families. Thank you for your continued support! Awamaki looks forward to keeping you updated on the progress of our cooperatives.

Measurement workshop in Kelkanka
Measurement workshop in Kelkanka

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?



Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Peru

Project Leader

Mary Kennedy Leavens

Ollantaytambo, Cusco Peru

Where is this project located?

Map of Empowering Women Through Design in Rural Peru