Mending Broken Heart

Stories come in by the dozen of displaced families lacking accessibility to safe and ethical employment opportunities, natural disasters threatening people's livelihoods and repressed rural communities without access the local and global marketplace to sell products of their trade. A few of the common denominators these people are facing -- broken communities, broken families and broken hearts.

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Hope for Women

In addition to their in-depth training and resource programs, ATA places a great deal of emphasis on their varied partnerships with artisan groups and international buyers. Many times ATA is the bridge between the artisan group and the buyer organization and helps to facilitate and sustain their working relationships.

In 2001, massive mud slides and a devastating earthquake left many families in the highlands of El Salvador homeless and jobless. With their fields destroyed, people began traveling long hours to low-paying factory jobs in the capital. A group of enterprising women, however, formed Arte Comasagua, an artisan group in El Salvador that handcrafts stylish designs from native flowers and plants. (www.hopeforwomen.com)

Started by Ana Rosa Graf, an architect and designer from San Salvador, Arte Comasagua provided a group of about 12 women the opportunity to work closer to their homes and their families and save the expense of traveling two-and-a-half hours plus to San Salvador for low-paying menial jobs.

Ana Rosa and her team had the talent and ability to create high quality collages made out of leaves, ferns, grasses and flowers, but did not have the experience or knowledge of how to market their products to Western cultures and reach the global export market.

In 2005, ATA connected Arte Comasagua to Hope for Women (HFW), an international buyer and trade organization who brings premium quality, Fair Trade products created by women artisans to the mainstream marketplace.

"ATA had taken the artisan's designs and nurtured them from being geared to a tourist market surrounding the botanicals of coffee and transformed their skill to a much more internationally marketable design," says Evan Goldsmith, president and founder of Hope for Women. "ATA helped (Arte Comasagua) with training and gave them invaluable insight into the world markets. All in all, they ended up connecting that artisan group (and product) to me, as a buyer. That is where the handshake came into play."

Hope for Women is now on their fourth consecutive order of production with Arte Comasagua."We are having (the women) produce as much as they can per month, which is great because we are buying up everything that they can produce and we are working with them to build capacity, as we grow their distribution of product through partnerships with companies such as Aveda and Whole Foods."

Hope for their children...


According to Goldsmith, HFW recently checked in with the women of Arte Comasagua. Ana Cecilia -- one of the artisans in El Salvador -- said, "My daughter is now going to the town school and is doing great -- before we were not able to send her there. I just bought our first stove and I no longer worry about the next meal, or our clothes or any other thing. My life is more relaxed and I have been able to buy things for my children that before were only dreams."

In addition to their partnership with the women in El Salvador, Hope for Women works with groups in the Himalayan mountains of India making "tree-free" Fair Trade greeting cards and in and Bogota, Columbia making bracelets and necklaces from Tagua -- nuts found within the seed pods of the Ivory Nut Palm (a native species of the Columbian rainforest).

Be sure to visit SheKnows for Part II of our look at female artisans around the world and how you can help change lives…

For more information on Aid to Artisans, visit:

www.aidtoartisans.org

For more information on Hope for Women, visit:

www.hopeforwomen.com

Photo Credit

Photo #1: Aid to Artisan -- South African Makukhanya Old Age Project.
Photo #2: Aid to Artisan -- Cambodian Weaver
Photo #3:
Hope for Women -- Magdalena, an artisan from El Salvador, created this design with the help of Aid to Artisan. Her unique designs reach the US with the help of Hope for Women.

For more related articles on SheKnows Cares: 

Liberating Artisans Internationally: Part II
Mother's Day Everyday campaign: Fighting maternal & newborn deaths
Women's oppression in Afghanistan

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