Last week, happy mothers celebrated with their daughters the completion of an 80-hour sewing course in which the girls participated during their school break. The girls proudly displayed a variety of bags and jackets that demonstrated their mastery of design, pattern-making and machine sewing.
Now that they can line a bag, insert a zipper and operate industrial machines, they have many more income-generating options. The girls will return to school in January, thanks to scholarships supported by our generous donors. One dreams of becoming teacher, another a health-care professional and another a businessperson.
The sewing course is part of a long-term strategy to build capacity in artisan coops. Right now, after women weave the beautiful panels that will be featured in Mayan Hands bags and jackets, these are sent to tailors or other coops for assembly. Ideally, this work - and the income it generates - would stay in the local community so that the women have complete control of a product, start to finish.
Several years ago, women in Vasconcelos and Morales received micro-loans for sewing machines, but we noticed that they soon stopped using them. We're not completely sure why, though machine sewing is traditionally a man's work in Guatemala. These recent sewing lessons have introduced girls to the machines when they are younger and have more time for lessons. They now have very useful and desirable skills to earn income that can support their studies or even the potential, if they choose, to start a business. We'll be ready with orders should they choose to do so!