Posed to Empower

Posed to Empower
By Elizabeth Salley, Marketing and Communications Intern

“Okay, it´s time for affirmations! Find a partner!” Ginette Collin announces. The room becomes a flurry of movement as the artisans pair up and giggle. At first, some of the women are quiet, but within the next few minutes, the meeting is full of arms waving in the air and voices calling out phrases like, ¨I have energy!” or “I am incredible!” in Spanish and Quechua.

This exercise is one of the many in a new workshop series for financial literacy and life skill training, developed in partnership with PurpleLily, a non-profit that teaches women’s leadership curriculum all over the world. The PurpleLily program consists of eight activity-based workshops, including building confidence, financial literacy, motivation, presentation skills, and five healthy habits. Ginette worked with Mercedes Durand and Martha Zuniga from our team to adapt the workshops to the needs and culture of the rural Andean artisans and make the program sustainable.

The program is designed in “layers,” so that concepts like building confidence, goal setting, and positive thinking can be applied to the financial training. In one workshop, the women were asked, “where does your money come from?” At first, answers were quiet, but then they increased in volume as the artisans responded, “Tourism!” “Awamaki!” or “My husband´s work.” They collaborated in groups to determine needs from wants, like rice or a fancy new hat.

In another activity, the artisans divided into groups and were asked to draw a savings goal in the middle of a piece of paper with three bubbles showing what they needed and when they wanted to accomplish their goal. The papers were peppered with doodles like little stone houses and stick figures to represent a house for tourism, and bubbly alpaca drawings to show saving up for more livestock. The women giggled as they shared their drawings of spindly animals and tourists with fellow artisans.

After a break of fresh bread and fruit, the tone changed as a picture of a smiling flower was projected onto the wall– time to talk about positive thinking! The artisans were asked, “What do you think positive thinking is? Why is it important?” The women gathered in small groups and discussed how having a positive mindset could lead to a more successful and happier life. Later, they listed what helps them feel positive and what they´re grateful for. “I am grateful for my children and husband,” one artisan said. “I am grateful for my health!” said another.

The team implemented these workshops in the Patacancha and Huilloc cooperatives in May, and Martha and Mercedes will continue the workshops in our other seven cooperatives this year.

The program supports Awamaki’s mission for the artisans to become financially independent. Mercedes says, “These workshops are important because they help the women grow and develop as individuals, and at the same time it increases their decision-making capacities. Because of the workshops, they can express themselves in public and create personal goals for the future.”

Ginette agrees that these workshops are designed to enhance the artisans’ skills.

“The goal of the PurpleLily program is to add value to what Awamaki is already doing. We´re supporting the technical skills that the artisans have with practical techniques to be more confident, connect with tourists, and sell their products,” says Ginette. We show them some tools that they can implement in their lives. If they remember some of the tools, if two or three resonate, and if they feel better about themselves coming out of the workshop, then I consider the job done.”

Well, consider the job done–one artisan, Virginia Huaman Cjuro from the Huilloc cooperative, said that she loved the power pose and that she was going to practice having a positive mindset at home. Another artisan from the cooperative, Martha Laucata Quispe, stated that she was going to practice saving more money to help her family. When asked how the workshops could help her cooperative, she added, “They will help make our cooperative feel more alive!”

However important the concepts in the workshops may be, Mercedes points out that Awamaki does not require the training for the cooperatives, so it’s up to the artisans to come to the meetings and practice the tools. For those who do, it can have a long-term impact. “Maybe our ideas won’t have an effect on every single woman we work with. But it will be a positive change for those who are interested in learning new things, who want to better their life conditions and their children’s, as well…They could teach them to have goals, to save money and to manage it correctly. These workshops could have positive effects not only on the women, but on future generations.”

This is the kind of lasting impact that we at Awamaki strive for–not only more empowerment in confident smiles and financial income for the artisans, but in their communities and families, for generations to come.

“Now, we`re going to finish with power poses! Make some room!” Ginette calls over the artisan´s chatter. The women laugh as they find a spot, but then they become silent. They make a stance, put their hands on their hips, and raise their head high. The room is full of Andean superwomen. They are not only our heroes, but they are their own.

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.