A total of 35 women from five communities participated in the foot loom training program this year. These women have now gained a skill that can earn them a better income throughout their lives.
Key accomplishments include:
• One group of women worked with a fashion designer to create some new products to sell on the international market, including purses and handbags.
• Another group of women began producing indigenous-style blouses to sell locally, strengthening the local economy while reinforcing Mayan cultural identity.
• One group of weavers in the community of Santo Domingo Xenacoj sold 1,200 yards of colorful fabric to a U.S.-based online fair trade retailer, Mercado Global.
• With the support of IDEX, AFEDES is currently negotiating with another U.S.-based fair trade organization, Global Goods Partners, to produce a line of woven products for the international market.
In April 2008 Katherine Zavala, IDEX’s Coordinator of Programs, traveled to Guatemala to visit communities where women are participating in AFEDES’ Foot-Loom Weaving Program. One community she visited was the village of Santiago Zamora, near the town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, known for its colorful, detailed textiles that fetch a high value. Around 125 families live in Santiago Zamora, where typically women are traditional back-strap weavers and men are field laborers.
Here Katherine met six women who are participating in the Foot-Loom Weaving Program. For many of them this is the first time they've seen a foot loom. Katherine asked them, "Why did you want to learn foot-loom weaving?"
One of the students, Lucila, said, "The goal I had was to learn more weaving and to have the opportunity to learn to do other type of weaving products."
Lucila is a back-strap weaver, currently the President of the group of women in Santiago Zamora that is receiving microcredit from AFEDES for the foot-looms. The group is called Bella Flor, meaning beautiful flower. The foot-loom is housed at Lucila's house for practical reasons - she has the extra space. The women take it in turns to visit Lucila in order to practice their homework on the foot-loom.
AFEDES finds it initially has many women interested in the learning the foot-loom. But once the program starts, some women unfortunately drop out. Often it is an issue of time. The program requires weekly attendance plus time to practice their homework. As mothers, who are also working to earn an income by weaving on the back-strap loom, their time is limited.
Women also stop coming to the training because of transportation costs. Often the women in the program have to travel to a neighboring village to attend the training. This is the reason Lidia initially left the group. She already knew a little about foot-loom weaving, and when AFEDES announced the program, she immediately signed up. But with the high costs of transportation, she left the program to save the money for her family. She told her husband how sad she was to leave the program, so her husband encouraged her to return. She's happy now that she's back and has the support of her husband.
Thanks to AFEDES, women are gaining the skills to access large market opportunities that require foot-loom weaving.
Since the last project update, another workshop on foot loom weaving started in San Antonio Aguas Calientes early in February. The workshop initiated by teaching participants how to build and piece together a foot loom. Eight women weavers are participating in these series.
The group participants have shared their enthusiasm and are motivated to learn foot loom weaving since they’ve only known how to do backstrap weaving, the traditional form of indigenous weaving.
AFEDES ordered five foot looms to be built by a local carpenter, who completed them this past November. They sent one of the foot looms to the community of Santo Domingo Xenacoj where a group of six indigenous women were ready to start learning foot loom weaving. This group had their first two-day workshop on foot loom weaving on November 23 to 24. The trainer of this group is one of AFEDES’ members living in Santo Domingo, who took a special course to teach foot loom weaving to beginners.
AFEDES is currently organizing another group of 6 women from the community of San Antonio Aguascalientes to start their first workshops in early December.
Milvian Aspuac, Economic Development Program Coordinator of the Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez (AFEDES), visited San Francisco in May 2007 to participate in the International Funders for Indigenous People (IFIP) Conference. This year, the IFIP Conference’s theme was “Weaving a New Path in Philanthropy.” Milvian was invited to speak at a panel session, facilitated by IDEX. Milvian’s presentation was on the TUPUEDES clothing store and the positive impact the store has provided to local indigenous women weavers. Milvian demonstrated that the clothing store has prospered by providing affordable, raw materials to the same weavers who then sell their finished products to the TUPUEDES store for a fair price. The store has allowed AFEDES to expand their programs and services to better empower Guatemalan indigenous women. In one year, AFEDES has increased its membership from 700 to 1,000 women.
Milvian also made valuable connections with Bay Area businesses on behalf of the women of AFEDES. These contacts will ensure even more employment opportunities to indigenous weavers and provide more skill development training opportunities as Milvian learned about the different designs and styles that the US market demands.
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IDEX Latin America Program Director