I have often heard or read about someone who says they wish that they could make a difference in the world, but they are just one person, so what can they do? Plenty, is what my answer would be.
Let’s look at Ruth DeGoglia who had the idea in college to go to Guatemala while writing her thesis in her senior year. She worked with the women who were economically disadvantaged through the Association of Rural Indigenous Communities. She discovered and met survivors of the country’s 36-year civil war facing the hardship of extreme poverty and the difficulties of sending their children to school. Public School is not free in Guatemala.
The women of Guatemala have an artisanal craft weaving beautiful bags and beaded jewelry, which appealed to Ruth and her fellow student Benita Singh, and they decided to return to the States with a suitcase full.
They in turn sold the items which made enough revenue for six women’s cooperatives in Guatemala. The money provided 30 co-op members with a month’s fair wage and was enough to send ten of their daughters to school. Ruth realized the potential for a linked global market that could change the lives of the poverty-stricken women in Guatemala who also face sexual abuse and gender-based violence.
In present day Guatemala, 80% of men believe that women need permission to leave the house. Breathe that in for a minute.
What the Government is doing…..
The Government is helping by addressing the problem of violence against women. In 2008, the Congress passed a law against femicide (the killing of women because they are female). There are 9.7 murders for every 100,000 women. In 2012, the government established a joint task force for crimes against women. On the global front, the International Violence Against Women Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2007; it has been pending ever since.
More needs to be done and in steps, Ruth is helping women keep their artisanal art very much alive. Most of the women in the communities cannot read or write but investing their time to make bags keeps them motivated and helps them choose scholarships for their children. It is a far cry from where they started.
Let’s take a minute to talk about the bags. First and foremost they are beautiful, and the co-op members in remote villages hand-weave textiles on looms in the most exquisite colors and patterns.
Ruth realized that she could help thousands of families out of years of poverty with something that started in a Yale dorm room. When Ruth saw the potential of the women’s artisanal craft she decided to find a way to link them to global marketing to help change their lives. Talk about the ability to help the poverty-stricken … here you go folks. There are 15 Guatemalan women’s co-op’s included in the plan. Ruth attained a start-up grant from Echoeing Green Foundation. Then Ruth and Benita started a non-profit initiative called Mercado Global (Mercado means market).
What is unique is that all the profits go to the partner communities, where the artisans themselves decide how they want the money spent. They can invest in their children’s education and have sustainable income.
Preserve the Art
Preserve the art of Guatemalan loom weaving and the age old artisanal tradition among the women. It takes two days for the Josephina pouch to be embroidered. Each collection draws inspiration from the ancient world blended into a modern aesthetic.
Mercado Global empowers indigenous women to overcome poverty and become agents of change in their communities.
Women invest 90 cents of every dollar they make back into the health, nutrition and education of their families. Investing in them goes beyond helping individuals to support overall community development.
What you can do? Visit Mercado Global and purchase a bag!