Above: Awamaki encourage women to use only natural dyes as synthetic dyes can be harmful to the environment. Photo: Laoise McGrath.
In 2017, Laoise McGrath volunteered in Peru with Awamaki, learning about the culture of female Incan weavers and how their livelihood is being undermined. This is the final in a series about her experiences.
Who are the women?
Awamaki helps women in indigenous rural communities. These communities speak their native Incan language, Quecha. Even though they make up 45% of the Peruvian population they are severely under-represented in government and often marginalised, some even lack basic needs such as access to clean running water. Awamaki realised that women were the heart of these communities; they understand what their families and children need. Thus by helping the women, they help the wider community.
How does Awamaki help?
Awamaki began by starting one co-operative in the rural town of Patacancha. It educated women in business and sustainability and also gave them access to classes where they could improve the skills of their trade. It worked with designers and international traders to help women enter the international market and connected the women directly to international clients. The aim was to educate women to the point where they could successfully run their own business without the need to depend on Awamaki further. It also teaches women the ethical practice of using natural, local dyes to dye their wool, instead of synthetic dyes, which can be harmful to the environment.
Today Awamaki has 11 co-operatives in different rural communities and sells the work of its women internationally via its website. More can be found about the work, the women and volunteering at www.awamaki.org