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Mama Killa

The opening of the Mama Killa craft workshop: bags and accessories manufacturing process training for the empowerment of women in the Hermanos Ayar neighbourhood

In August 2019, Los Chicos de Cusco received 15k euros from the Occitanie Region in France to help create an artisanal jewellery workshop in the Hermanos Ayar district of Santiago de Cusco. As an income-generating activity, this workshop would promote the economic emancipation of women involved in the project and contribute to the financial autonomy of the Huchuy Yachaq social center, sponsor of the project. In March 2020, as we were preparing to launch it, the global pandemic hit the world. Schools and social centres shut down and the Mama Killa project was put on hold due to the obvious lack of tourists in the area.

Marlene – director of the Huchuy Yachaq social center – and us had to rethink the project and shift towards an activity that still generates income for women but is less dependent on the tourist industry. And this is how, after 2 years of Covid, Mama Killa became a workshop for the manufacture of artisanal handbags and accessories called “Learning and entrepreneurship program for gender equality during a pandemic”.

Nowadays, the development of programs for the integration and economic emancipation of women appears more important than ever to tackle poverty and to act for the protection of children’s rights. The pandemic has aggravated the inequalities between genders and women who mainly held informal jobs in the trade and service sectors found themselves unemployed, without income and particularly vulnerable. According to the ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2021), the progress made in Latin America in terms of women’s participation in the active market has returned to where it was more than 10 years ago.

Since May 10, 11 women from the Hermanos Ayar district joined the Mama Quilla’s workshop for a 12-month course, and hope this will then increase their chances of finding a job, becoming an entrepreneur or even contributing to the operation and sustainability of the workshop with the training of future promotions who might develop themselves in areas like sewing, embroidery, leather work, acquisition of commercial and entrepreneurial skills as well as psychosocial skills (self-esteem, assertiveness, decision-making, etc.).

We’d like to thank the Occitanie Region for the financial support without which the project would not have been possible, the company Perus, the Lycée la Trinité de Béziers and all the donors who participate in this learning program. and entrepreneurship for gender equality in times of pandemic.

See below some comments made by the project coordinator of Mama Killa (April 25, 2022):

MAMA KILLA – C. Molina, project coordinator

The project “Learning and entrepreneurship for gender equality during a pandemic” was initiated by mothers from the Hermanos Ayar social center who were looking for new opportunities.

We started our communication via posters in the neighbourhood and spent time surveying any mother who could be interested. They showed interest when they heard about the project and asked about the cost and duration of the workshop. They were happy when we told them the training would be totally free and that we trusted them and their ability to succeed.

The project team met-up half an hour before the first meeting to prepare the presentation and the topics to be addressed, we were both excited and anxious to know how many mothers would attend.

They turned up, one after another, sometimes a little bit late or with their little ones in the arms. The meeting took place between the children’s agitation and the mothers talking about their daily lives. At that time, we realised the urgent need to open a crèche if we wanted the project to be a success.

We made a dynamic presentation. The mothers were nervous still excited. Those who had started the training already supported others, reminding them of the importance to commit to their future and to this collective project.

We also shared some socio-economic spreadsheets. We were utterly surprised to find out that most of these women were dependent from their partner. Nothing unusual for them, they probably didn’t even understand the consequences of this addiction.

After the meeting, we faced a few hiccups: finding a place to hold these sessions took longer than expected, no trainers were available at the time and those who were couldn’t commute. Then we found a strong candidate (an experienced volunteer), but the remuneration wasn’t up to their standards.

Regardless of these issues, we are all motivated and dedicated to take this project to the next level.

The results of the theory part aren’t assured, but we know from experience we can change their lives. We have an amazing opportunity to empower 20 women. An opportunity to make them lead by the example any other woman from the neighbourhood. To identify all sorts of violence and make the right move so they never let this happen again. We also give them the opportunity to generate their own income, to be fully independent and to change their reality.

Finally, I’d like to emphasise that among the many encouraging elements of this project, two stood out. First of all, the fabulous commitment of everyone involved, from the director to the volunteers, who did everything they could to reach the final objective. And on the other hand, the great dynamism and assertiveness of the mothers who did a tremendous amount of work before the project even started. Thanks to everyone, we have now an experienced and enthusiastic teacher, a room that’s almost ready to use, 23 pre-registered* mothers and almost 6 working sewing machines (soon to be 10).“

*In the end, only 11 women took part of the training.

The progress shared by Marlene, director of the Huchuy Yachaq social center on May 26, 2022:

“During the week of May 2, 2022, the coordinators of the project, the trainers and the women who had registered for it started the operational side of the workshop (rearranging the premises, verifying the sewing machines were uprunning, purchasing any additional equipment…). The first session started on May 10 with embroidery lessons with all 11 women involved.

The training takes place on a daily basis: Monday to Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. »

The project to open a crèche for all the active mothers who can’t arrange childcare is currently on hold due to the lack of funds and human resources.

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