We are creating a future that allows indigenous Peruvian families to break free from the cycle of poverty. This is a future where indigenous children receive a good education, do not go to bed hungry, and have access to an array of fruits and vegetables. Studies show that when women earn income, 90% is reinvested into their families compared to 30% for men. In Peru, weavers are typically women, and providing indigenous women weavers the opportunity for increased income will directly benefit the wellbeing of indigenous families.
We are creating a future where indigenous women can provide for and be with their families. Currently, men and women often leave their villages to look for work in larger cities in order to provide a stable income for their families. Not only does this put an environmental strain on already precious resources in and around urban areas, but it also diminishes the importance of a more traditional life of farming and weaving in the rural areas and forces families to separate. We envision a future where economic opportunity is available in conjunction with traditional Peruvian ways of life..
We are creating a future where traditional Peruvian textiles are valued, ensuring that the knowledge is passed on for generations. In recent years, modernization and increased tourism has caused young weavers to view textiles as primarily an economic exchange between an indigenous person and tourist. In addition, the use of synthetic dyes, machine-spun wool, non-traditional methods, and simplified designs has increased. The cultural knowledge and techniques associated with traditional textiles are at risk of vanishing and since Quechua, the language of indigenous Peruvians, has no written register, textiles act as historical accounts of generations’ values, stories, and knowledge. We are creating a future where cultural significance and traditional knowledge is valued and preserved.
We are creating a future where indigenous Peruvian women have equal voice as men in household and family decisions. Gender inequality is extensive in rural Peru, and providing women with a reliable source of income allows for increased self-esteem and economic empowerment. When women in Choquecancha earn their own income, they gain a voice in household decisions such as their children’s education, healthcare. family planning, and asset allocation. We are creating an avenue for women’s empowerment.
Connecting the Women’s Weaving Group to Unique, Untapped Markets. Traditional Peruvian textiles are a popular good and the markets are saturated. Choquecancha is far from the traditional tourist trail, so it is difficult for the women of Winay Warmi to sell their weavings. INKAcase both highlights traditional designs and provides an aesthetically pleasing product for consumers wanting to create social impact with their purchase.
Capacity Building Workshops. The domestic and international textile markets are highly competitive, so we have offered workshops to help increase their products’ attractiveness on the international market. These capacity building workshops are complemented with lessons on appropriate pricing.
Knowledge Creation and Awareness Building of Traditional Textiles. INKAcase highlights the traditional iconography and design. Our goal in doing so is to increase appreciation for the value and history that is incorporated into each weaving. Each textile is handmade, using natural dyes and techniques that have been passed down for generations. We hope that the importance placed on the tradition of weaving will help to fight the encroachment of modern machinery.
Community Savings Program and Financial Literacy. For some, this is the first time a woman will earn income for her family. It is important to conduct lessons in financial literacy and savings in conjunction with purchases to help the women identify spending priorities.
Supporting a Women’s Weaving Group. Men traditionally hold both formal and informal leadership positions. These power dynamics make it difficult for women to speak openly about their opinions and concerns, and the weaving group provides a chance for women to get together and share ideas. It is an empowering environment that is difficult to come by in a rural community.
Holistic Community Development. We believe that income generation alone is not enough to create sustainable community development. In addition to the INKAcase project, we have worked with community leaders and school directors to build school greenhouses since the high-altitude limits crops to potatoes and corn. This leads to persistent malnutrition amongst Choquecancha’s youth. This holistic approach to development will allow the INKAcase project to have a lasting social impact.
During summer 2010, a group of graduate students spent two months conducting a gender needs assessment in the high-altitude communities surrounding Peru’s Sacred Valley. Indigenous women are highly marginalized in this area, and the findings of the analysis indicated severe inequality within households, as well. The biggest take-away from the assessment was that weaving is a creative outlet for these women, and it is already ingrained in their daily lives. Weaving is something they are extremely proud of, and these women expressed a deep desire to use their weaving skills to help provide food and education for their children. However, these women have no access to a market. Living on less than $1 a day, they are unable to travel to sell their textiles at local markets, and even if they had the funds, the local markets are completely saturated with similar products – blankets, scarves, and the standard “table runner.”
Recognizing the need and the opportunity, co-founder of the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD), Tina Novero, developed a product that would resonate with western markets and utilize the indigenous women’s weaving skills – a protective laptop case called INKAcase. These cases are environmentally friendly and the textiles are hand-made using traditional methodologies of the Incas.
During late 2011 and early 2012, the INKAcase 13” laptop case was prototyped with market segments in the U.S. The feedback received was outstanding across the board – the cases were durable, protective, and consumers felt good about their purchase, which proves to us this is a viable venture with potentially large social impact for some of the poorest people in South America.
The group of women we have chosen to initially work with exhibit strong unity and live in an extremely remote area of Peru. These women are the Wiñay Warmi Weaving Association and they partake in community savings with hopes to one day purchase their own sheep after a devastating disease wiped out the entire flock in 2010. This, these women say, will help them be self-sustaining again. Furthermore, the personal income these women receive for their hand-woven textile will generate stable income for their families and encourage the traditional knowledge to be passed on for generations. This translates to better education, more nutrition food, and an overall better sense of self- worth. In addition, the profit AASD earns from the sale of the textiles is directly used to support programs that improve food security and decrease malnutrition in their communities; projects such as school greenhouses and lunch programs.
In addition to the numerous social impacts the INKAcase venture poses, the management team is experienced and reliable. The INKAcase team has worked in the Choquecancha community for over three years. We have the support and trust not only of the women weavers, but also school directors, community leaders, and the local government to ensure maximum social impact and sustained cooperation. Furthermore, the INKAcase management team holds advanced degrees in international non-profit management and business administration, both essential to a successful social enterprise.