Economic Empowerment

Jobs Break the Cycle of Poverty

The women who have been trained to create high quality, handspun hand-knitting yarn for Alliyma will have steady, year-round work at a fair, living wage. Consider that in the Peruvian highlands:

  • Women who work at low-level jobs in agriculture or small stores earn 15 soles, or a little less than $5 a day
  • A professional woman who works for the local government makes 25 soles, or $7.81 a day
  • A professional woman who works for the regional government makes 35 soles, or $10.93 a day
  • A woman who spins one kilo of yarn per day for Alliyma will make 45 soles, or $14.06 a day

The Nunoa Women’s Fiber Co-Op was formed to create handspun yarn and handmade garments. The co-op has agreed to sell handspun yarn to Quechua Benefit for export to the USA. We asked the co-op president how many women were fully trained and qualified to make top-of-the-line hand-knitting yarn, and she replied,

“There are 30 women ready to produce, including 12 who spin one kilo of yarn per day. The rest spin three-fourths of a kilo a day and are learning fast how to increase their production.”

We asked, “If you had more orders, could you find more women willing to work?”

“Of course,” she replied. “I have a list with more than 50 names. It takes 90 days to train them to the standards required by the market. If we have more orders, that list will only grow.”

Our Economic Empowerment plan took root as we listened
Quechua Benefit’s team crowded into the mayor’s office, a 15 x 20’ room that doubled as a community center in the town of Aymana, which is located miles above sea level and far from any modern conveniences. The team sat in white plastic chairs along the far wall, across from the local men who came mostly out of curiosity, not quite sure what would unfold. Women filed in and sat on the cold, grey floor in the back of the room, their wide, vividly colored skirts billowing around them. Children darted in and out. To show our respect, women from our team joined the others on the floor. Dr. Jose Mosquera, a surgeon and an international public health expert, was there to lead a focus group to identify what issues were most important to the community. Dr. Mosquera – credited with substantially reducing parasitic anemia
in the entire country of Ecuador – began by inquiring about the general health of the community.

He asked, “What is the most important health issue you face?”
One of the men immediately responded, “The health of our alpacas.”

The team, taken by surprise, asked: “but what about your children’s health?”

A young woman cradling a baby wrapped in a crimson blanket, with two small children at her feet whispered, “If the alpaca die, our children will not eat.”

This simple fact lies at the core of any effort to break the cycle of poverty in the highlands of Peru. Consider that an average family of four owns a small herd of about 150 alpacas. From these animals, they make 85% of all their annual income, which amounts to about $100 per month.