Bring Literacy to Indigenous Women - Oaxaca Mexico

by The Circle of Women
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop

We all in Oaxaca are in a transitional process, thinking about the future and looking back on the history that we made together. This is a very special time, the women in Miramar are more and more independent and strong, they are speaking out about  what they think and  what they want in the future. 
Weavers have set up a team for marketing their products, they now are very clear about the importance of having a market in USA and also expanding the market in Oaxaca and Mexico. They are going to dye the wool later this year, in September, but we are going to try an experimental process from Brazil to get red and purple in cotton.

The literacy program is at a very interesting point. The current teachers are writing about their experiences with the project with the guide of Dr. Patricia Tovar to be included as a chapter for the literacy manual. This is going to be very helpful for  new teachers. In September and October, Patricia Tovar is going to train more teachers in the Mixtec area.

We also are doing a doll-making workshop, this is the second part of the first project which was part of the exhibit at the Museo de Textil in Oaxaca. Now the new dolls are more complex, they have symbols on their bodies that express the relation with nature in Mixtec culture. The next step is to write short stories about these symbols. This is a very advanced exercise of the reading program.

Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop


The Circle At Work
The Circle At Work
On February 11th and 12th I had the privilege of visiting the work of The Circle Of Women. We met Patricia in the early morning of February 11th and thereafter began our journey via mini-bus towards Tlaxiaco. In Tlaxiaco I had the privilege of meeting Judith and her husband. After grabbing some breakfast and walking through the local markets we were on our way to Miramar—several hours through the mountainous Mixteca Region. The journey was well worth it. When we arrived the workshops were already taking place. A group of approximately twenty women were working on drawing pictures in the local basketball facilities. The drawings were representative of various Mixteca words. These pictures helped the women associate the pictures to different words and inevitably improve their literacy. After my brief introduction to the women, they were right back to work. It was as if the only thing that mattered were their drawings and attention to what their instructor was telling them. I was a bit hesitant at first to participate but by the end of the workshops, there I was, drawing symbols that represented words in Mixteca and trying to learn the word “horse” in the traditional language. I would also like to mention that many of the women participating in the workshops are also members of a cooperative that sell handmade, quality scarves. This cooperative is facilitated by The Circle Of Women Trust. So for those of you looking for amazing gift ideas I would strongly encourage you to contact Judith directly. These make a perfect gift idea while simultaneously supporting an amazing cause. In fact, I bought one for my mother and she recently called me and said she LOVED it. So in addition to donating to an amazing cause you can also purchase quality shawls. I would suggest both!! The cause and people behind it are sincerely dedicated.Showing the Drawings
Showing the Drawings
Weavers Agripina and Dominga with dolls
Weavers Agripina and Dominga with dolls

Hola to all donors and supporters!

This comes with gratitude for all you do to support the work of the Circle of Women. 

Each year brings new growth to the women of our projects in Miramar.
This year we are focusing on developing leadership among the women:

  • Four apprentice weavers are studying with master weavers Marcelina
     and Reyna.
  • Two teachers are being trained by Edith and Augustina to expand the literacy
     program to two new villages.
  •  Six health promoters are being trained by Dr. Armida Sanchez. These women  
     will be the first line of defense in the village for health matters.  As health
     educators, they will advise and help in decision making around medical care,
       and develop health resources for Miramar.



The empowerment of the women of Miramar is taking on a life of it's own and we are increasingly celebrating their success and turning more and more of the work over to them.  

In order to complete this process of developing the women's independence from us we ask for your support again.

We have been in the village for nearly 10 years and have developed effective and
sustainable programs. They also are transferable to other venues. It has been an amazing adventure for all of us and you have made it happen. Let us continue together to empower these women and their children.

Thank you.

Judith Lockhart-Radtke and
the Women of Miramar, Oaxaca
The Circle of Women


The book which Tom Feher, photographer and I have produced about the weavers of Miramar has arrived!  Weaving Yarn, Weaving Cultures, Weaving Lives: A Circle of Women in Oaxaca, Mexico is really beautiful, Tom’s pictures, particularly the portraits of each weaver are wonderful.  I’ve written their stories and also included an addendum that describes the way we have worked with the women which has made the projects so successful.  You too have all taken part in this as well and be proud of what we’ve accomplished.  To get your copy go to the website  The price is $50 if we are mailing it to you. No one is taking a profit, including the publisher so all monies go to The Circle of Women for the weavers. 

Patty Tovar (director of projects), Dr. Armida (health program coordinator) and I have completed our plans for 2011.  By the time I arrived in Oaxaca this winter, the health program, literacy program and weavers had all evaluated 2010 programs and set their goals for 2011.  This is another mark of their empowerment as they women take over another step. 

The health program will train six health promoters for the community. This is an intensive program in health education, health promotion, and includes nutrition.  These women will provide continuity in the community with the education we have done.  Promoters are key people in the health network of the villages. They are often the first person involved when problems arise.  The six women are all literate, smart, young and energetic.  

The weavers will continue their mastery of their trade by beginning to use a finer wool thread, more work on flecos (fringes) and attempting to find a way to increase their production of blues which are their best seller.  They hope also to find an organic dye in red to use with cotton.

A major effort is in place to set up a more advanced form of marketing which will join Mixtec/Spanish/and English speaking women in a Circle to develop and vitalize their markets.  This year has been their best yet for sales.

They’re about to graduate from our watchful eye so the final step before the celebration is to focus on their new organizational structure which features the abuelitas as the lead women, a plan which is working well.

The literacy program is working in a second village and will complete the program within the year. The book club has done a lot of work mastering reading and writing in Mixtec and are about to launch their own micro-enterprise making dolls and telling their stories.  We are hoping to receive enough support which will enable us to train two more teachers besides Edith and Augustina.

So, exciting times ahead.  Thank you to all of you for your support.  You are very special people.

Photo: Tom Feher
Photo: Tom Feher

Hola everyone,

Thank you for your ongoing support. I just wanted to update you on what’s going on with the Circle of Women, as I head into the heat of Oaxaca and Miramar this week. I go with great curiosity because I’ve not been since March—the longest time ever! The weavers have taken more control of their marketing and business. But, I’ve been missing them. GLASSES FOR ALMOST EVERYONE Enabled by El Clinic de Pueblo in San Martin, a suburb of Oaxaca, 35 women from Miramar had their eyes examined. Of these, 31 were found to need glasses and were supplied with some. Other major eye health conditions were diagnosed to be caused by the sun, dust, and infectious conjunctivitis. The women were instructed in eye washing with chamomile. This is the first big exam for any woman in Miramar who wanted it.

LEARNING ABOUT GOOD FOODS AND LEAVING OUT THE JUNK As part of the health program, the women have been studying and understanding the meaning of GOOD FOOD. This involves recognizing what foods lack good nutritional qualities and which are highly processed and lead to health problems.

The women conducted a survey of what was available in Miramar and what people were eating by looking in trash piles and visiting stores. The women were amazed at the enormous amount of garbage generated by industrialized food. They made an agreement with one another to not offer this kind of food to their children and to design healthy snacks for use in the community.

This program was completely designed e women, guided by Dr. Armida Sanchez, and made possible through the generous support of Pura Vida Coffee company.

ANNOUNCEMENTS Tom Feher’s and my book, “Weaving yarn, Weaving cultures, Weaving lives: The Circle of Women in Miramar, Oaxaca” is now at the publisher in Mexico and we have been promised it in time for the holidays. It is beautiful. Tom’s pictures of the weavers are wonderful.

Thank you for all you do.


Photo: Tom Feher
Photo: Tom Feher
Photo: Tom Feher
Photo: Tom Feher

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Organization Information

The Circle of Women

Location: Chelsea, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
The Circle of Women
Project Leader:
Judith Lockhart Radtke
Staff Member
Chelsea, MA United States

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