Jun 7, 2019

Crafting New Connections

New Artisans from Ocongate knit samples.
New Artisans from Ocongate knit samples.

As an indigenous artisan in the Cusco region, the farther you live from Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco, the fewer economic opportunities you have.

Until 2019, the furthest cooperative with which we worked was in the village of Kelkanka, three hours from Ollantaytambo.  But as we’ve graduated our veteran cooperatives, and gained capacity as a staff to begin working with new cooperatives, we have begun working with three new cooperatives  located in the region of Ocongate, four hours south of Ollantaytambo. By expanding our geographic reach to different regions of Cusco, we can not only bring our model to more artisans but also bring new techniques and skills into our work.  

“We got in touch with the Ocongate cooperatives through a health NGO called Suyana.” Mercedes, our head of women’s cooperatives program, explained. Mercedes built the connection through a family member that works with Suyana, from there she was able to get in touch with the cooperatives located in the Ocongate region.

For the first visits both Mercedes, and Martha, our knitting coordinator, oversaw knitting and weaving samples from three separate local cooperatives. Since March the new artisans have demonstrated great skill with their handicrafts as well as professionalism in the way they conduct their organization. We are very excited to be working with such talented and motivated artisans and have already placed several orders for our export collection, Kay Pacha.

There are three separate groups of artisans in the region of Ocongate with which Awamaki is building partnerships. The first, Condor Pallay, is composed of 16 artisans, the second is located in the smaller community of Upis with 22 artisans, and the third, Ausangate, has 19 artisans. Ausangate specializes in knitting and crocheting and they are currently filling orders for Awamaki’s Muku baby collection, including the adorable Lamb Lovey and Llama Play Toy.

The cooperatives in Ocongate “understand the production process and are comfortable with texting us and sharing images of their work, which makes our collaboration smoother and faster, especially now that we have been getting more international orders than ever,” Martha said.  She also explained that Awamaki does not currently collaborate with many highly trained crochet artisans and that establishing a relationship with these cooperatives is a great asset, because the crochet technique requires a lot more attention to detail as it is a more sophisticated craft.

Martha also mentioned that she enjoys the challenge of working with cooperatives that have less professional expertise, as it opens the door for more opportunity to train the artisans using Awamaki’s hallmark training program, the  Impact Model. Mercedes explained that “the cooperatives in Ocongate are very skilled and have great work ethic, and we are planning on implementing workshops in color theory, and design, for them to push their abilities even further.”

The first step to begin a partnership with Awamaki, Mercedes explained, is for the cooperative to reflect a well organized and established working space and to have a designated president. In the case that they don’t have a work space of their own, Awamaki supports the cooperatives as they begin the process of securing a center in the near future. A final part of the first step-- and a very important one due to the percentage of informality in the labor sector of Peru-- is for the cooperative to register as a legal association with the Peruvian government so that they are able to generate their own legal receipts.

A cooperative reaches the second level of the Impact Model when it is able to execute designs and quality control expectations as well as maintain good standing of management over their payments from Awamaki. Ocongate cooperatives have demonstrated great expertise; we are inspired to expand our partnerships with them, along with conducting new and emerging workshops on design and color theory. The third level, which prepares the cooperatives for graduation, is reached when the artisans are able to secure their own clients and work independently. Here, the relationship with Awamaki transforms from training workshops to a mainly commercial one. However, as Mercedes explains, “Awamaki stays present in their journey and development and if the possibility arises, puts them in touch with other clients.” From here, the cooperatives can grow their own successful, independent businesses.

Here at Awamaki, we celebrate cooperatives at all stages of the Impact Model and beyond. We believe in continuing to reinforce their empowerment, and being creative about ways to help them grow and challenge their skills for the future.

Your donations have funded the development of our Impact Model, as well as the training that has allowed our veteran cooperatives to move towards graduation. You also help fund the start up costs associated with bringing on a new cooperatives just like the 57 women of Ocongate. Thank you for being with us on this journey!

Mercedes leads an intro with new cooperatives
Mercedes leads an intro with new cooperatives
Knitting New Partnerships
Knitting New Partnerships
New Partner Artisan Knits Sample for Martha
New Partner Artisan Knits Sample for Martha
Martha explains production methods
Martha explains production methods

Links:

Jun 7, 2019

Empowerment Through Media Workshops

Martha writes what the internet can be used for.
Martha writes what the internet can be used for.

For the past few months we’ve been working to develop a new series of workshops for our partner artisans focused on marketing and media ethics. Most of our partner artisans do not have access to the internet, and we’ve found they want to better understand it. They also wonder how images of themselves and their work are used in our marketing here at Awamaki. This is why we put together a series of media workshops for the artisans to better understand the internet and ultimately be able to manage their marketing themselves.

The workshops were prompted by a new media policy that Brianna, our Marketing and Communications Coordinator, has been working on. Brianna has an academic background in Photojournalism and she feels very passionate about the ethical use of photography within our organization. The new media policy will govern the work of our staff and volunteers, and we will also share it with tourism, students and artisan product clients who visit us, and ask them to abide by it.  

“There wasn’t anything built in to protect our partner artisans. [An ethical media policy] was definitely something to make more formal and official. I wanted it to stay with Awamaki. I think it’s a very important tool for nonprofits to have, especially when working with vulnerable and indigenous populations,” Brianna explained.

The main takeaway included in the media policy is the requirement for consent from the subject.  Awamaki wants to make sure that people always ask the women we work with before taking pictures or interviewing them. “From there, a lot of the breakdowns are very simple concepts, like treating subjects with dignity and respect, alongside representing them accurately, not stereotyping or over generalizing anyone,” Brianna explained.

“Since we’re writing a policy that has to do with [the artisans] then they should understand what the policy means. We saw it as an opportunity to educate them on the policy as well as fill the gap on education of online platforms,” explains Mollie, our International Partnerships Manager who was worked closely on developing these workshops. We know training them in the concepts of marketing is an important next step for their growth and development as independent cooperatives.

Along with Mollie, Shara, one of our Monitoring and Evaluations volunteers, has also spent a lot of time developing the project. She has created powerpoints and activities to accompany the topics covered by the workshops. In all, we have crafted a four part series to empower women to be active participants in the global market and economy. The first part is about the general idea of the internet and social media, while the second revolves around marketing more specifically. The last two parts are focused on the policy Brianna created, to ensure that the artisans understand it and know what to expect from photographers who visit them.

“A lot of these communities have only recently gotten internet access and because it’s such an important part of having a business nowadays, I think it’s necessary that they learn the different parts. Ideally they will also eventually use it to further their business opportunities,” Shara commented.

These workshops are led by our Head of Women’s Artisans Cooperatives, Mercedes, both in Quechua and Spanish, to ensure active participation from all of the artisans in the cooperative. So far, we have been able to give our first part workshops with the communities of Rumira, Puente Inca, Patacancha and Huilloc.

“I think it’s important for the women to be informed. They’re not necessarily going to use the internet right away, we’re not aiming for that in the practical sense. Rather, we want to inform them so they know what the internet is,” Mercedes explained. These workshops rely heavily on the interaction and participation within the artisans. We think that the best way to teach about this, is for the women to collaboratively join in activities and learn as if “networking”.

In a simulation of how social media works, the artisans had to assign “likes” (paper hearts)  to photos of themselves and their fellow artisans. To demonstrate the idea of emailing, the artisans flew paper airplanes across the room. Laughter filled the room as we showed the artisans how each internet activity worked.

We are excited to be implementing these workshops and getting feedback on what we’re doing from the artisans themselves. Ultimately, we strive for the artisans we work with “to know that they can be advocates for themselves, to know that they have the right to say no,” Brianna concluded.

 

The women of Huilloc attend a media workshop.
The women of Huilloc attend a media workshop.
Simeona, Gregoria and Dionicia choose pictures.
Simeona, Gregoria and Dionicia choose pictures.
Juliana assigns "likes" to photos.
Juliana assigns "likes" to photos.
Gregoria and Hilda write an "email."
Gregoria and Hilda write an "email."

Links:

Mar 12, 2019

A New Center for Kelkanka

Women Inside the Center
Women Inside the Center

Kelkanka, a small village high in the Andes, is an amazing place to be able to visit, not only for its views, but for its people. Our partner cooperative, Wakanquilla, has recently finished building their new artisan center in the center of the village. The center will be used for meetings, weaving, and workshops that will enable the cooperative to continue trainings with Awamaki as well as support their future as an independent business. The workshop covered how to build self esteem, strengthen confidence, and how to be a leader. It was amazing to see the women collaborating, learning, and getting out of their comfort zones as they worked through each activity as a group. Not only was the workshop helping empower them, but the space “gives them security and more [empowerment]” Mercedes, our head of the women’s cooperatives program, explained. They now have shared ownership of the center and can access it whenever they want, giving them a great place to gather and work as an independent business.

“The idea to build the center had been in the works for the past three years” Mercedes, described. Once the money was raised to build the center, the women got to work right away. Kennedy, our founder and executive director explained that the “artisan group [purchased] the land in the name of the [Wakanquilla] cooperative, and then [Awamaki] collaborated to build the center.” Awamaki helped them with the planning, designing, and fundraising of the center. Once construction finally began, it was completed in a speedy fifteen days, the whole community working together in a community-led initiative typically referred to as a faena, a traditional Quechua concept. Faena’s are usually projects that contribute to the overall growth and development of the community as a whole, bringing people together for a single purpose and goal; the idea being everyone could benefit mutually. “The artisans and their families supplied materials like adobe bricks, thatch for roofs, and stones,” Kennedy continued, “[Awamaki] supplied materials that needed to be purchased, like concrete and wood.  Awamaki was able to purchase the supplies from the generous individual donations given in support of the Wakanquilla cooperative in Kelkanka.”

“Before the center was built, the women would meet in the open air or in the community schools, never having a permanent or reliable place to congregate,” Kennedy explained. These meetings were also dependent on the weather, which can be spotty far up the mountains in Kelkanka where rainy season often blocks transportation on the roads into town completely and snowfall is a common occurrence. The women needed a place to call their own to provide security for their meetings and trainings, as well as a place to store their inventory. In the future the center will help provide a safe, independent central meeting space, or even one day be used as a sales center.

While talking to Eustakia, one of the artisans of the Wakanquilla cooperative, she expressed her excitement for the new center, “It makes me feel very cheerful.” It was anything but difficult to tell that the women were excited to have a new center to use as their own. They all showed up for their first workshop in the center early, waiting outside its locked doors, eagerly awaiting to find a space to sit inside. During the workshop, the women were enthusiastic; activities like group presentations, acting, and ‘simon says’ got them all smiling and laughing. The impact of the center on the women is no doubt positive, and so is the impact on the community. The center is improving the small village, with strengthened economic opportunity for the women who live there.

The future of the center looks bright, and so does the artisans’ business now that they have a center to call their own. It is through the hard work of the women, Awamaki, and our supporters that allow goals like this to be made into reality. We cannott wait to see the progress the cooperative is able to make as a result of the center and the impact it will have on the artisans and their families.

The New Center in Kelkanka
The New Center in Kelkanka
Team Building Activities
Team Building Activities
View From Inside the Center
View From Inside the Center

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