Mayan Hands is a fair trade nonprofit organization dedicated to providing economic and educational opportunities to Mayan women and girls so that they can build sustainable futures for themselves, their families and communities, as they continue to live within the culture they cherish.
Mayan Hands began its activities in the early 1990s, founded by Fredy and Brenda Rosenbaum, both natives of Guatemala. Brenda had lived and conducted anthropology research for many years in Mayan communities in both Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico, where she was graced with generous hospitality and friendship. She witnessed both the hard-working lives and amazing talent of the Mayan people she knew, as well as the effects of the marginalization and discrimination they have suffered for centuries. At the time when Mayan Hands embarked on its work, many Mayan communities were engulfed in the Guatemalan civil war and suffering terrible devastation and loss.
Mayan Hands was born with the idea of opening markets for Mayan textiles. Mayan weavers, especially women working on the back-strap loom, are hailed the world over for their weaving skills and their magnificent textiles. Connecting them to markets willing to pay a fair return for their work, the women would have the opportunity to earn a consistent income and support their families. From the beginning, Mayan Hands chose to adhere to fair trade principles, and is proud to be a founding member of the Fair Trade Federation. A fair trade network of stores and individuals continues to appreciate and purchase our products more than 30 years later.
In addition to paying fair wages for their work, programs that support our artisan partners in realizing their potential as artists, businesswomen, and leaders in their communities help them create lasting change at home, and allow the women to share their creativity and culture with the global community. Our artisan partners participate in capacity-building programs that offer technical assistance, new skills or technique development, product design, business and leadership development, or occupational health and safety, as well as workshops in gender role awareness and conflict resolution.
Working with fair trade for all these years has brought a sea change in the lives of the women we work with: they speak out, resist domestic oppression, and, counting on a regular income, have more agency in their lives. We are all especially excited about Mayan Hands Education Fund, which provides scholarships to the daughters of our artisan partners and school supplies to all children.
Today, Mayan Hands partners with more than 200 women artisans in 14 communities in the Guatemalan Highlands. Through your fair trade purchase of their fine handmade products, you too are connected to our remarkable artisan partners and help to keep their rich cultural traditions alive.