Jessa Pillipow is a former Awamaki volunteer who wrote this SCIC Blog post about her project with us.

Volunteer Jessa spent six months with Awamaki in 2014. During her time with us, she led a project to develop and teach an empowerment workshop to the women’s cooperatives. Her goal was to both evaluate Awamaki’s work in empowerment, and share the organization’s vision with the women. What she found was pretty exciting! Jessa writes:

Awamaki Women’s Empowerment Workshop, Huilloc Cooperative, Peru (Photo by Assunta Sergi)
Awamaki Women’s Empowerment Workshop, Huilloc Cooperative, Peru (Photo by Assunta Sergi)

“As I came know the women better through my work leading tours to the communities of Patacancha and Huilloc, I began to wonder if they had ever received an in-depth explanation of Awamaki’s mission and vision of women’s empowerment. After all, the majority of the cooperatives that the organization works with are Quechua-speaking, and the word “empowerment” does not exist in their language. Further, Awamaki is a small, young non-profit with limited resources, and I knew that the majority of available money and energy had been focused on the business-side of the organization in order to ensure that the women could earn an income.

Awamaki Women’s Empowerment Workshop, Sacred Valley, Peru (Photo by Assunta Sergi)
Awamaki Women’s Empowerment Workshop, Sacred Valley, Peru (Photo by Assunta Sergi)

We developed a workshop that explained Awamaki’s vision of women’s empowerment, and opened up a conversation with the women about what kind of changes had occurred since they began working with the organization. The women told us that they weren’t exactly sure what empowerment meant, but that they assumed Awamaki only worked with women because traditionally, in their culture, women are weavers. While it’s true that women are most often the ones who weave, there are men in these communities who weave, too. This acknowledgment opened up a conversation about how in the Sacred Valley region, it is especially difficult for Quechua-speaking women to find employment because most of the jobs are tourism-related, where speaking Spanish is required. This means that while men work in the tourism industry, women stay at home to take care of their children and homes. We explained that Awamaki’s goal is to level the playing field and provide women with the opportunity to earn their own income.

Afterwards, the women shared stories about how their lives have changed: the quality of their homes have improved; they can afford to purchase more nutritional food; and they can send their children to better schools to receive a higher quality education. The most powerful changes the women spoke of were larger, societal improvements that have taken place. Some women told us that there is less domestic violence in their household now that they have their own income and subsequent power to make decisions. Others said that instead of being expected to stay at home, their husbands are now pushing them to work so they can earn a greater income. In some cases, the women have now become the primary income earners in the home, and their husbands are asking them for money, instead of the other way around.”

Awamaki Women’s Empowerment Workshop, Patacancha, Peru (Photo by Merel Haverhals)
Awamaki Women’s Empowerment Workshop, Patacancha, Peru (Photo by Merel Haverhals)

We are pretty proud of Jesse and her findings, and grateful to her for all her hard work!

You can read more about Jessa’s experience and findings here!