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.