MayaWorks is about creating work for women so that they become self-sufficient. MayaWorks believes that community development happens through economic development of women who otherwise have limited ways to participate and contribute to the economic stability of their families.
Giving women an opportunity to earn an income from their skills gives them self-confidence and hope for themselves, their children, their family and their village.
Life Challenges of the Women Served
Women and the indigenous suffer historical exclusion from political and socio-economic participation. Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to the complex and gendered inconsistencies that an isolated geographic location fosters. They suffer from high domestic and agricultural workloads, lack of access to education and information, and lack of access to productive resources such as land and other economic outlets like jobs. These factors create a culture of inaccessibility, illiteracy, economic dependency, and discrimination.
MayaWorks artisans tend to marry very young and, on average, have six children. Many are single mothers working to support large families on their own. Most have not completed their primary education. Forty percent are illiterate. If a family has limited financial resources, priority is given to educating the male children, often leaving girls at home to attend to domestic chores.
The Committee for Historical Clarification’s investigation of the civil war has demonstrated that the rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice aimed at destroying one of the most intimate and vulnerable aspects of the individual’s dignity. The majority of rape victims were Maya women. Those who survived the crime still suffer profound trauma as a result of this aggression, and the communities themselves were deeply offended by this practice. The presence of sexual violence in the social memory of the communities has become a source of collective shame.
MayaWorks addresses three major issues facing women and girls in the developing world.
Economic Development Social Venture. It creates ongoing work for Guatemalan artisans and provides U.S. women an opportunity to directly support women’s global economic development.
Microcredit. It helps women artisans become entrepreneurs.
Education. It gives indigenous women opportunities to continue to study and receive training so that they create a more secure future and provides scholarships for artisans’ daughters.
MayaWorks believes the economic stability of women is the first step to securing safety, education, and productivity for indigenous Guatemalan women and their families. Since textiles are an integral part of Maya culture, weaving is often passed down from mother to daughter and young girls often learn to weave even before they start school.
Economic Development Social Venture, the first level of the MayaWorks program, seeks to open U.S. markets for traditional Guatemalan handicrafts, providing a source of income for women. By selling their products, indigenous women have a source of income generated directly by their skills. This income allows women to provide better food for their families, send their children to school and take them to the doctor when they are sick. Being a fully contributing member of a household serves to increase the artisans’ self-esteem as they ultimately improve the economic and social conditions of their communities.
MayaWorks stays competitive through ongoing product design and development, and several new products are introduced annually. Recent innovations include the development of products for the sectarian niche market – prayer shawls, yarmulkes, clerical stoles, and more.
Products are sold primarily through MayaWorks retail website, and some sales are still made through a network of U.S. women volunteers who sell on consignment in their communities.
A third important distribution channel is to the wholesale market. MayaWorks participates in Guatemala’s largest export trade show, specifically tailored to artisan handicrafts. The show draws prospective wholesale buyers from the U.S., Europe and Australia.
MayaWorks takes two or three representatives from each of the six artisan communities to the annual trade show in order to expose them to the level of quality required by international buyers and to see new product designs entering the market. The show also serves as an important training experience for the artisans to interact with wholesale buyers. It is the intention of MayaWorks to facilitate the artisans’ independence with the ultimate goal of having each artisan group deal directly with wholesale buyers.
MayaWorks’ Microcredit Program exists to help women develop as entrepreneurs by managing other income generating projects. These projects supplement artisan income in between product orders from MayaWorks. Artisans must complete a loan application that includes a simple business plan. The business plan outlines all expected expenses, a time line of the income generating project and the expected profits. It also includes a simple analysis of marketing and selling expenses. If the project will result in a profit for the artisan, the project will be approved and the artisan will receive her loan within one week of approval and after attending an initial financial management workshop. Examples of projects include crop cultivation, animal husbandry, and lumber sales.
During the course of their project, artisans receive quarterly site visits by the Program Coordinator to evaluate how the project is progressing. If an artisan is experiencing difficulty with the project, she will receive technical support from staff members and will be visited more often. Artisans must also attend periodic business trainings to be eligible for further loans.
Artisans receive loans of up to $625 ranging in term from one year to 18 months. Interest on these small revolving loans is just two percent on the monthly balance. The expected default rate is less than three percent. Currently, MayaWorks funds 25 microcredit projects.
MayaWorks’ Education Program is extensive and largely responsible for the organization’s success. Working toward a brighter future for indigenous women and their daughters, MayaWorks coordinates the following educational programs:
- Literacy classes. Most MayaWorks artisans have not completed their primary education and do not speak Spanish as their primary language. It is important to read and write Spanish to conduct business in Guatemala. Often, because indigenous women do not speak the national language, they are taken advantage of in business transactions. MayaWorks partners with CONALFA, the Comité Nacional de Alfabetización (National Committee on Literacy), a Guatemalan entity, to provide literacy training. MayaWorks hires a CONALFA trained teacher who comes to the artisans’ communities three times per week to teach reading and writing. The course is three years long and CONALFA provides most of the materials. Participation in the course is completely voluntary. At the end of the course, women read at a sixth grade reading level in Spanish. By 2015, 85 percent of MayaWorks artisans will read at a sixth grade level.
- Capacity-building training. MayaWorks is committed to providing ongoing training to its artisans so that they acquire the skills necessary to make new products. The more weaving and sewing skills an artisan has, the more products she can make resulting in increased income for her and her family. Groups receive at least two capacity building trainings per year, many of which are determined by the artisan groups. MayaWorks also commits resources to provide artisans trainings that develop transferable business skills. For example, artisans receive basic financial management and business administration training.
- Scholarships for daughters of artisans. Although public education is free in Guatemala, the educational system is poorly structured and largely unsupported by the national government. Many classrooms nationwide, especially in rural areas, do not meet minimum standards for classroom space, teaching materials, classroom equipment/ furniture and water/sanitation. Moreover, the recruitment and retaining of quality teachers in rural areas poses a large problem. Salaries are low, and most teachers come from larger towns where they have been able to receive higher education. Faced with a daily commute of a few hours in order to reach the rural areas, many would rather seek employment in the larger towns first.
- The lack of curriculum guides or teaching materials in rural schools also hamper efforts to improve education standards in those areas. It is especially hard for indigenous families to afford the rising cost of school uniforms, books, supplies and transportation, all of which are not supplemented by the government. This is exacerbated by the fact that, for poorer students, time spent in school could be time better spent working to sustain the family.
- Male literacy and school enrollment rates dominate female rates in all aspects. Of the two million children who do not attend school in Guatemala, the majority are indigenous girls living in rural areas. If a family has limited financial resources, priority is given to educating the male children, often leaving girls at home to attend to domestic chores. Thus begins the cycle of poverty for women.
- MayaWorks recognizes that ending a woman’s cycle of poverty requires education. To that end, they provide partial scholarships for the daughters of artisans in an effort to keep girls in school for as long as possible.
- Academic support and enrichment services. MayaWorks supports tutoring centers in all six of its artisan communities. At the centers, which are open two to five days per week during the morning and afternoon hours to accommodate staggered class schedules, tutors coordinate enrichment and tutoring services for over 125 students.
MayaWorks provides three levels of academic support
Questions for Discussion
Tutoring targets core subject areas such as language arts, math, science, and social studies. Students receive focused help in weak subject areas and have access to a small MayaWorks-funded computer lab for further support.Academic enrichment projects help students build on what they learn in school and explore experiential and cooperative learning opportunities. Tutors meet with the students’ teachers to keep abreast of the curriculum and tailor activities to support what is being learned in school. In addition, periodically volunteers from the U.S. work at the MayaWorks’ Rosa Moya Education Center in Comalapa to teach English, assisting students in their goal to be tri-lingual.Writing, reading, and research skills are incorporated into all program activities. By the high school years, students have experienced higher level reading, analysis, research and writing. The Rosa Moya Education Center has a lending library created by a MayaWorks ESL volunteer.
In addition to tutoring children, MayaWorks offers Parent workshops to deliver information and create broader awareness of the importance of school attendance. These hands-on workshops offer topics requested by parents to assist them in supporting their children’s learning: creating environments conducive to achievement, overcoming obstacles, building family support systems and creating better communication between children and parents.
1. How did you learn how to save and manage money? What made you a successful money manager and credit-worthy person?
2. Have you had any times in your life when you were living on very little income? How did you manage? Did your relationship with money change when your finances improved significantly?
3. Have financial difficulties you or friends and family have faced made you more aware of poverty and suffering around the world? How has that influenced you?
The Project Budget and How DFW's Donations will be used
The DFW grant of 50,000 is roughly one-third of the programs annual budget. Here’s how it will be used.
Why We Love This Project
|MayaWorks – DFW Budget
|Program staff and consultants: DFW will fund 68 percent of the salaries for three professional staff members and consultants in Guatemala.
|Artisan payments: DFW will pay 18 percent of payments to artisans for the production of products. Artisans are paid 50 percent up front and the balance when they turn in their product.
|Education: DFW will contribute 68 percent toward scholarships for daughters of artisans, six tutoring centers, literacy and leadership training for artisan groups.
|Publicity: DFW will fully fund the cost of participating in Guatemala’s largest export trade show.
|Office Expenses: DFW will cover 68 percent of rent, supplies, staff training, accounting/banking fees, printing, equipment repair.
We love this program because it allows women to make a living while preserving the art of traditional weaving and other crafts, and it focuses on education as an additional method of empowering women and girls. We love the fact that they also give scholarships to the daughters of the artisans to pay school fees, helping to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
We have a special affinity for the concept expressed on the MayaWorks logo - “Interweaving Lives, Discovering One World”, as it complements the mission and vision of Dining for Women so beautifully. As our Dinner Affirmation says, “May we all be able to feast together some day.” Evidence of Success
MayaWorks measures their success by their ability to provide ongoing work for indigenous women. The organization has built a business model that has evolved over time from solely volunteer-driven sales to include wholesale distribution and online retail sales. MayaWorks also has developed niche markets within the Jewish and Christian communities to include products such as kippot, tallitot, and clerical stoles. These broader market opportunities have enabled MayaWorks to increase sales significantly and to provide over $2,000,000 in earnings to 125 artisans in Guatemala over the last 15 years, and over $200,000 in support of charitable activities in artisans’ local communities.
As a result of MayaWorks’ literacy training, 60 percent of artisans are reading or are learning to read at a 6th grade level. (The goal is for 85 percent of all women to attain a 6th grade reading level by 2015.) Currently, 93 percent of microloan projects are profitable. (The goal was that 75 percent of projects be profitable.)
MayaWorks provided 100 scholarships to the daughters of artisans in the 2012 school year, and 100 percent of the artisans’ high school seniors graduated at the end of the 2011 school year. Women consistently respond in surveys and interviews that, because they have ongoing work, they are able to provide more protein meals for their family, send their daughters to school, buy medicine when their children are ill and build additions on to their family compounds.
The trainings MayaWorks has provided have helped me improve my weaving skills and the quality of my products. Now, I can operate a treadle foot loom, weave ikat fabric and sew – three skills I did not have before becoming a MayaWorks artisan.”
– Vicenta Jutzutz Tetzaguic, left
“With the income I earn weaving fabric for MayaWorks, I know I can support my family. I am determined to keep working hard to be a role model for my daughters and for my community. I am so proud of how far my daughters have come. They have completed high school with the help of MayaWorks scholarships and tutoring help.”
– Eufemia Chalí
About the Organization
“I learned that I have value, I have rights and obligations, I have the ability to learn and I can and will do it.”
– MayaWorks artisan Dolores Elizabeth Ouijú Tacaxoy after participating Leadership Training
“I am very happy to be studying education, specializing in the bilingual teaching of children. I study at the school of Pedro Molina in Chimaltenango, and I am so happy to be realizing my dreams and goals that I thank God every day that I am doing well in all of my courses. I am also thankful for the support that MayaWorks gives me every day. I have been receiving MayaWorks scholarships for eight years and it is truly a blessing to both me and my family. May God bless and keep you always.”
– Balbina Soledad Jutzutz Cristal
In the early 1990s, as a visitor to Guatemala, Patricia Krause agreed to carry a suitcase of weavings back to the U.S. with the hope of opening a market for the work of poor Maya women. The weavings in that suitcase sold quickly and soon many suitcases were being carried back to the U.S. by various travelers to Guatemala. Before long, larger shipments were arriving to be processed through customs and then distributed to volunteers for selling. As U.S. sales increased, additional weavers were employed and the range of artisan products broadened.
It became clear that this international partnership which supported economic development of Maya women in Guatemala needed to be formalized. Buyers in the U.S. were excited by the idea that their purchases directly supported the development of poor Maya artisans, their families and their communities. In 1996 a Board of Directors was established and MayaWorks was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.
Where They Work
“Guatemala is a country of contrasts and contradictions. Situated in the middle of the American continent, bathed by the waters of the Caribbean and the Pacific, its inhabitants live in a multiethnic, pluricultural and multilingual nation, in a State which emerged from the triumph of liberal forces in Central America. Guatemala has seen periods marked by beauty and dignity from the beginning of the ancient Mayan culture to the present day; its name has been glorified through its works of science, art, and culture; by men and women of honour and peace, both great and humble; by its Nobel Laureates for Literature and Peace. However, in Guatemala, pages have also been written of shame and infamy, disgrace and terror, pain and grief, all as a product of the armed confrontation among brothers and sisters. For more than 34 years, Guatemalans lived under the shadow of fear, death and disappearance as daily threats in the lives of ordinary citizens.”
Memory of Silence
Report of the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification
For more than three decades a civil war raged in Guatemala, beginning after a U.S.-backed military coup in 1954. Opposition groups were continuously forming in an attempt to fight against the repression that the military and wealthy landowners in Guatemala had created. More than 200,000 were killed – 83 percent of the victims were indigenous Maya. The Commission for Historical Clarification, set in place by the UN in 1997, was created to investigate the numerous human rights violations perpetrated by both sides in the armed conflict. Their report concluded that 93 percent of the atrocities committed were the work of the country’s armed forces, and that their actions constituted genocide against the Maya.
The memory of this civil war is very much alive in Guatemala today. Former Guatemalan President Gen. Efrain Rios Montt is currently on trial for war crimes in his own country. This rare prosecution of a former Latin American military dictator has been widely hailed by human rights groups as an important reckoning with the past. The litany of terrors recalled by the trial’s witnesses has been relentless and heartbreaking.
But nearly a month into the trial, the case has suffered a potentially devastating setback. In a stunning turn on April 18, 2013, a judge has granted an appeal from Rios Montt’s defense to annul the entire case based on a technicality. That ruling in effect shut down the genocide trial and may force it to start all over. Prosecutors said they will appeal the decision.
Since the signing peace agreement ended the civil war in December 1996, USAID has identified two significant challenges to successful development in Guatemala: historic inequality that remains ingrained in Guatemalan society, and weak government that lacks the capacity to address insecurity and poverty. Each of these driving forces contributes to increased crime, high levels of poverty (over half the population), and some of the lowest levels of health and education quality in Latin America.
Although 96 percent of children are enrolled in primary school, Guatemala has the lowest primary school completion rate in Central America. For every 10 children who enter the school system, only four graduate from primary school, only one completes lower secondary school and only 8.5 percent of youth pursue a university education. Development efforts are further challenged by the fact that Guatemala has such a young population—with 50 percent under 18 and 20 percent between 15 and 29 years old.
A major earthquake in 1976 damaged cities throughout the country, killing 23,000 and leaving many thousands homeless. In 2001, drought and the fall of world coffee prices exacerbated the already extreme poverty that afflicted rural Guatemalan families. Severe rains in Guatemala over the last two years have taken their toll, especially on women’s agricultural projects.
Documentation and images provided by MayaWorks to Dining for Women
Politics / Economy / History / Geography