These Artisan Women United For Their Indigenous Community

August 25, 2021 By Diego Herrera

Among the groups that experience the greatest economic and social vulnerability are indigenous women. Decades of educational backwardness and the discrimination to which they are subjected, due to their ethnicity and gender, have led to very few achieving financial independence.

This, of course, is a product of the colonial legacy and current power structures. However, there are women who have managed to establish support networks. Such is the case of a group of artisans in Argentina.

The Indigenous Argentines of Salta are a forgotten and vulnerable group.

The Salta region, in the north of Argentina, is one of the poorest in the country, and lags far behind in comparison with urban epicenters like the capital Buenos Aires and cities like Neuquén, Córdoba and Mendoza. In particular, the Gran Chaco area suffers from considerable delays in terms of infrastructure and services.

For decades, the domestic economy of the area has depended to a greater or lesser extent on the work of artisans. Individual efforts did not allow them to support their families or stop depending on their partners. But everything changed in 2000, when they organized into a labor-based gender and cultural resistance movement.

Weaving and creating for the community and personal empowerment

Women from the Wichí, Qom and Pilagá groups came together to form the Artisan Women of Gran Chaco Cooperative (Comar). Working independently did not allow them to generate profits or promote their products, made mainly of wool and natural fibers, but by organizing themselves in a support network they have been able to streamline their distribution channels and carry out marketing efforts that lead to fair prices.

Today, Comar brings together 2,600 artisans from 23 associations, who initially faced rejection from community leaders who wanted to maintain the status quo in terms of gender relations. Comar has achieved in two decades what many have been trying for years: to unite the efforts of women of different ethnic groups, who sometimes live up to 500 kilometers apart.

A great lesson on life and sustainable business

These women now sell their crafts through digital networks and have clients in places very far from Argentina, such as Japan. In addition to being a sustainable business and avoiding intermediaries to create greater benefits for indigenous women, it has achieved to empower a vulnerable community.

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