International Women's Day marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality and celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
In celebration of the theme of 2021 'Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.' we are exploring the all women-run cooperative in Mexico that Collective-Stories are collaborating with for our modern homeware collection. Their story is an incredible tale of a group of women who defied cultural and gender norms in Teotitlán by establishing an all women-run weaving cooperative to support women in their community who are single, divorced, widowed or who are left without a family to take care of them.
For decades Teotitlán has been known for its handwoven rugs. As men were traditionally the weavers of the village, the women found it challenging to make a living from their craft. The women were being exploited and forced to sell their rugs through middlemen who wouldn’t pay enough for the weavers to breakeven. The women gathered a small group of weavers, in spite of the social restriction on Zapotec women meeting together without men for more than 30 min, to find a way to break free from the middlemen. The cooperative members secretly exchanged their ideas while working together at local festivals, whispering while making tortillas and they managed to create their weaving cooperative specialising in traditional weaving and natural dyes.
The women heard about a government grant for rural farming and they ventured the 20 miles to Oaxaca together a a group, with the younger women looking after the elder women who were not used to wearing shoes, travelling by bus or even speaking Spanish. The government forms to receive the grant were complicated and with their limited education they were impossible to fill out correctly. Luckily, the women were persistent and they found a NGO that wanted to help them. The NGO did more than just help them with the forms, they also held workshops, teaching them how to organise their cooperative and about their rights and gender equality. The women did get the government grant in the end, which meant that they could break free from the middlemen and they could buy their own wool and sell rugs directly from their home instead of via dealers.
The women in the cooperative work on their crafts at home so they can still carry out household tasks while earning an income. Pastora and her family have opened up their home and the members come together once a month to decide how often they want to work and how much they want to sell their work for, with the profit going directly to that artisan.
The cooperative's initiatives benefits the entire community, which have earned them local respect. From establishing the village's recycling system to creating an eldercare program, these women are un-stoppable and we are tremendously proud to be working with them.