New and Improved

New and Improved
By Gabriela Moncada, Marketing and Communications Intern When Awamaki began, our focus was on economic empowerment. Income in the hands of women, we believed, was the best way to enable them to lift their communities to prosperity.

We still believe that, however; in the past few years, our view of empowerment has changed. We have moved increasingly towards a more holistic view of empowerment, with confidence and leadership trainings to complement and strengthen the effects of the economic benefits our artisans receive.

Doni Uyeno, our first Monitoring and Evaluations volunteer of 2018, worked alongside our local staff to create a series of workshops for the women in our cooperatives, based on increasing women’s confidence, leadership and decision-making skills in their communities. Uyeno explains, “Even though money can be very helpful on the road for women’s empowerment, especially in some indigenous communities, it’s also important to realize that money isn’t the answer for everything.”

Uyeno created several modules of workshops, all which include a small introduction, a series of confidence building activities based on the topic of leadership, and a conclusion where they all share what they have learned and how they are planning on implementing their new knowledge in their daily lives. The confidence building workshop, implemented in the cooperative of Awac Phuña, has had an especially strong impact on the women.

During the workshops, the artisans were guided through several activities. For the ‘ice breaker,’ the women were challenged to stand up and share positive traits about themselves in front of the rest of the group. The second activity entailed a lesson given by our Head of Women’s Cooperatives, Mercedes Durand, on the concept of confidence– what it means, what it looks like and how it can be implemented in their daily lives, in addition to how it relates to leadership. The third activity focused on each woman as a leader and their individual ability to be creative by finding an image that represents them, while the fourth focused on honesty, with the women sharing the positive traits they see in each other.

By focusing on simple confidence building exercises, they were able to build trust with one another, strengthen their relationships and their view of themselves, as well as reinforce the importance of living in a community.

The method used was simple: Awamaki chose to exemplify to women how they are already leaders in their communities, and provide examples of how they make important and impactful decisions everyday. “It is important for us to provide that space and designated time for self reflection,” Uyeno added.

Highlighting their roles as women as a way of empowerment without trying to push change on them is one of our main goals. “It is important to remember that each woman and each cooperative functions differently; some are more open to us than others, more confident and willing to talk in front of the group and engage in the activities. Us being consistent with them will prepare them to go to the next level,” Mercedes noted.

Here at Awamaki we know the buildup of multiple workshops, combined with the economic empowerment they are gaining through their handicraft production, is what is giving the women a strong base and guide towards independence. “ get involved with Awamaki initially because of the economic benefits. The long term goal would be to help them realize that that money can best help them when paired alongside the leadership empowerment that Awamaki can provide,” Uyeno concluded.

About Awamaki

Awamaki is a nonprofit fair trade social enterprise dedicated to connecting Andean artisan weavers with global markets. We collaborate with women artisans to support their efforts towards educational and financial independence by co-creating beautifully handcrafted knit and woven accessories using hertiage techniques.