Mayan Hands

Mayan Hands is a fair trade nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Mayan women in their quest to bring their families out of extreme poverty as they continue to live within the culture they cherish. Mayan Hands believes that when provided economic opportunity and income over time, women can build sustainable futures for themselves, their families and communities. Mayan Hands partners with more than 200 women artisans in 13 communities in the Guatemalan Highlands. Mayan women are the poorest of the poor in Guatemalan society, with few opportunities for an education or to earn a living. Even though they are renowned as textile artists the world over, lack of alternatives and fierce competition forces them to sell their products at very low prices, sometimes under cost. The women Mayan Hands works with are young and single, women with whole families intact, single mothers, women whose husbands work far away so are only home occasionally, women whose husbands are drunk and lost to a useful life at best and are abusive at worst, and widows — all of which is to say women in every kind of life situation. Most of the women who work with Mayan Hands have had no more than a third grade education, and many none whatsoever. They tend to be illiterate, and many do not speak Spanish. Working with fair trade for 25 years has brought a sea change in the lives of the women: they speak out, resist domestic oppression, and, able to count on a regular income, have more control over their lives; their families eat better and all their children go to school. Workshops that include the concept of self-esteem are amazing to them, and the possibility and legality of women’s rights is something they are getting a better handle on all the time. One of the most important things that working with Mayan Hands does for these women is make it possible for them to send their children to school, including their daughters. With encouragement and the establishment of the Mayan Hands Education Fund which provides scholarships to these girls and school supplies to all children, Mayan Hands helps with what the women see as a very important change for the next generation. The women talk of their children becoming lawyers, teachers, doctors or some other kind of professional — which would mean they don’t need to risk their lives going to the United States to look for work and leave their families behind in the process. Mayan Hands helps them to make their dreams of a better life come true. In addition to offering fair wages for their work and educational assistance, Mayan Hands provides other support to its artisan partners, such as micro-lending, training in new skills and techniques, business and leadership development, access to health care, as well as classes in gender role awareness, domestic violence, conflict resolution, and herbal medicine. Mayan women love to weave, as weaving keeps them connected to their ancestors, and within the sacred and cultural Mayan universe. Through your fair trade purchase of their fine handmade products, you too are connected to our remarkable artisan partners and help to keep their rich cultural traditions alive.
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