By: Alex Boehler, Marketing and Communications Intern
The month of October means many different things all over the world. In the northern hemisphere the leaves are changing, nights are getting colder, and fall is in full swing. In the southern hemisphere the days are getting warmer, rain is starting to fall, and the earth is growing greener. October has one thing in common across the hemispheres; it is a time for change.
At Awamaki, we celebrate this time of change in the form of Fair Trade Month. Although we highlight our artisans year round, October is a special month to focus on the principles that guide our activities with our cooperatives. So join us this Fair Trade Month in celebrating and supporting products that are fair – fair to humans, communities, women, children, the environment, and to ourselves.
When you buy fair trade products at Awamaki, you are supporting:
Women: When our artisans prove that they can help support their families, their partners will be more likely to share the responsibilities of the household, leading to more equality in the home. Asunta Quispe Yupanqui, a cooperative member, explained that because the women “are contributing income, they share their money with their husbands and make decisions about expenses together”.
Families: A member of our Women’s Cooperative Program, Nicolasa, said “I now have the liberty to spend my money” and the cooperative agreed, saying that, “We no longer have to look in our husbands pockets”. When women are able to earn extra income themselves, they can spend it on what they value most like supporting their children’s education, making improvements on their homes, and promoting their family’s health by purchasing fresh vegetables and toiletries.
Communities: Members of our Women’s Cooperative Program collectively buy land for their weaving centers, making long-term investments that promote economic growth and sustain local culture. The women work together to enact change. Awamaki’s Director of Impact and International Sales, Giulia Debernardini, tells the women, “You are a team – not individuals. As an association, you must work together to improve yourselves and your products.”
The Environment: All of Awamaki’s products are local to the Sacred Valley. Awamaki’s Head Designer, Jess Sheehan, explains, “Our hand spun line is a completely integrated product. We start by shearing alpacas owned by the women’s families, which is then brought to our community in Huilloc to be cleaned and spun. After inspection, the wool is dyed using local plants, minerals, and insects and finally knitted or woven by members of the Women’s Cooperative Program into a final design.” Our unique vertical integration design model leads to a very small environmental footprint and gives you the confidence that your product is made working with the environment instead of against it.
Tradition: Buying products that are unique to a culture help to preserve it. When a market is created for a traditional product, there is incentive to continue the tradition and thus preserve it. Eulogia Quispe, 13-year-old daughter of weaver Isabela Quispe, told Awamaki her dream is to grow up to “be a professional like my mother, [so] I am studying textiles”. Our traditional natural dye, color theory, and weaving workshops help sustain the growth of traditional folk art through generations.
Even if you can’t visit us in Ollantaytambo this October, you can always celebrate Fair Trade Month with us online. Share with us your favorite Awamaki fair trade product on social media, or visit our store at www.awamakistore.org to purchase one of our fair trade products.