We interviewed Awamaki, a partner that focuses helping women in Peru become economically sustainable through education and traditional crafts, as part of the Give2Girls campaign. They hope to educate the older girls of their weaving cooperatives to become future leaders through workshops that focus on skills like computer use, and to launch a Girls Leadership Program for 2014.
What’s the story behind Awamaki?
Awamaki was formed in early 2009, to support a cooperative of 10 women weavers from Patacancha, a rural Quechua community in Peru. Awamaki’s founders, Seattle native, Kennedy Leavens and Peru native, Miguel Galdo, worked together at Awamaki’s predecessor organization with the Patacancha weaving cooperative for two years. When that organization floundered and finally collapsed, Miguel and Kennedy formed Awamaki to continue their work with the weavers. Awamaki grew rapidly its first few years. We started a health project (now independent), ran an afterschool program, and tried on a number of other hats as well. Awamaki now concentrates its work in economic empowerment, education, skills development, and sustainable community tourism.
How did you become connected with Jolkona?
I had heard of Jolkona through the UW Evans School Public Affairs, so when Nadia emailed me asking for information, I offered to come down to the office. Face-to-face meetings are so rare when you work internationally and your funders, partners and donors are spread out all over the globe.
Can you tell us more about your project’s background and why it started?
Our women’s cooperative project started in the hands of another organization, CATCCO, nearly 10 years ago. The project’s founders saw that the Quechua weaving tradition was being lost, so they offered to buy weavings from high school aged girls in order to encourage them to continue to weave and also give them support for their studies. Since then, our focus has shifted from mostly textile tradition revitalization — though that is still an important aim — to economic development through women’s access to economic opportunities and income. We have created a number of other projects towards that aim, including knitting, sewing and spinning cooperatives, as well as a homestay family association and a Spanish teachers cooperative to work with the many volunteers and travelers that come through the town where we are based. All our projects come from a need identified by the community and an opportunity identified by our international volunteers and staff, who have the ideas and expertise necessary to connect marginalized community members with the opportunities afforded by the international tourism markets.
What kind of lasting change does the project hope to engender?
We aim to give women the skills and market access they need to directly improve their incomes. We believe that income in the hands of women is the most effective way to lift rural families and communities out of poverty. We hope to create cooperatives that are models of self-sufficiency and financial sustainability, allowing women to be empowered agents of change, investing in the health, education and well being of their families and their communities.
We also aim to create cooperative business models that respect and revitalize local traditions and ways of life.
So say I make a contribution to the project, can you explain a little further the impact that is achieved?
Awamaki’s projects allow the women we work with to access economic opportunities and earn a significant income that they then invest in their families and communities.
Our donors and supporters play a crucial role in our work. As a successful social enterprise, 78% of our funding comes from earned program income–sales of fair trade products, income from our sustainable tourism program, and volunteer and service travel program donations. This income covers our core operating expenses entirely.
Since we are devoted to working with the most marginalized women and communities in the area, however, the success of our programs–and the improved income and well-being of our women–rests on the extensive administrative support, skills trainings and capacity-building workshops we provide to the 150 women and families with whom we work. We leverage 100% of donations to provide this support and to fund program start-up and expansion, such as organizing and training new cooperatives that become self-sustaining after our initial investment
We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?
Graciela is 17. She lives in the remote high Andean community of Patacancha. When she was 13, she became pregnant. Girls don’t usually finish school in Patacancha; girls who are mothers definitely don’t finish school. Graciela’s parents were upset by her early pregnancy, but they enrolled her in Awamaki’s weaving cooperative program, then just starting. Income from the Awamaki project allowed her to support the child while she and the child’s father — only barely older than Graciela — finished school. Last year, he graduated from high school, and they moved into a one-room adobe home that they built near her parent’s home. Graciela continues to support her young family with income from the Awamaki project. Though only 17, she is one of our most skilled weavers. Her son, Rolando, is a healthy, energetic four-year-old.
In a nutshell, why should someone give to this project?
Donations are the crucial link between the enterprise and the social part of what we do. We multiply your donation many times over by creating self-sustaining solutions to poverty.