Chajulense de Mujeres
Within Chajul's cooperative, Chajulense de Mujeres "Unidas por la vida" (United for Life) is a group made up of over 100 women who work together to benefit the lives of their coop sisters as well as their families. They are engaged in a number of projects but have been particularly successful in creating the weaving group. In the description below (translated from Spanish), we learn the background and reasons for which this group exists.
Far away in the Andes Verdes ("Lush Andes"), as winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1967) Miguel Angel Asturias (a Guatemalan author) puts it, the Ixil culture persists despite conquest, colonialism and a brutal war that lasted 33 years. It is in this tropical climate that the Asociación Chajulense was founded. Also known as Val Vaq Quyol (“One Voice” in Ixil), the cooperative was created 1988 as an alternative livelihood for the Ixil population in the midst of the terrible violence, poverty and exclusion. Now, it accounts for approximately 2000 producers who have all benefited from organized, collective work, respect for the environment (organic practices), Fair Trade as well as the internal strength and hope that has developed by striving together.
It was within this context that the group of female artisans was born, supported by the larger Association. These women have utilized the Mayan and Ixil custom of weaving as an alternative source of income for their own development and their families since 1989. Mayan cosmology tells the story of the Ixchel goddess who weaved the cosmos with her loom; the Ixil woman, in her image, have the power – and responsibility – to weave a better future; “she weaves dreams.”
In 2008, the group of women formed their own formal organization, the Chajulense Association of Women “United for Life,” so that their weaving project would grow and generate better products and markets – ultimately, better opportunities for even more women. Currently, there are 45 women who participate in the weaving project. The organization provides services for obtaining the cotton, preparing the fabric, designing the product, tailoring it, and searching for markets in which to sell it. The women receive the prepared thread which is converted into products designed to respond to the demands of the market in terms of colors, designs, and utility. The Chajulense women offer a wide range of personal accessories: bags, wallets, cosmetic bags, scarves as well as a line of items for babies. They also sell home accessories such as pillow cushions, oven mits, table runners, etc.
The Chajulense women also have strived to create other economic alternatives through micro-credit (a program run by the women themselves), so that they can invest in their projects. The process of gaining both the education and capacity to run such programs has been extremely valuable and important for these women. Managing the group – which now consists of more than 100 women – and its governance has provided more than just an extra income – it has empowered the women and provided a space where they can exchange information and experiences.