This Jewelry Line Teaches Guatemalan Women How to Become Entrepreneurs
Matilde Garcia pulls colorful beads onto a thread as she completes another bracelet. “This experience has taught me so much and made me very happy,” she says.
Garcia, a mother from a small village in Guatemala, began making jewelry nine years ago as part of a social enterprise brand, Wakami. Before this opportunity, she couldn’t find work that would allow her time to also care for her family, and her various salaries were never enough to keep food on the table.
Wakami began in 2006 to help artisans, 90 percent of whom are women from rural communities in Guatemala, generate income by expanding their markets.
“It all started with a dream of working with women living in rural communities, to improve their quality of life,” says founder Maria Pacheco, who also founded the social company behind the jewelry brand Kiej de los Bosques. The company helps women form a small business, create Wakami products, and hire and train other women to join their business; the company then exports the products to more than 14 countries. There are 17 small businesses in Guatemala producing for the Wakami brand.
The brand empowers women by teaching them entrepreneurship and life skills. For example, rather than just providing the materials, women must travel to the capital to choose and pick up their own supplies. Before becoming a Wakami designer, women are trained by a technician in their native language about the newest techniques and trends in jewelry design. These accessories represent their Guatemalan culture and values.
Once a small business owner is generating income, she is provided with a smart investment platform that helps improve her family’s quality of life through clean water, housing, nutrition, and education.
In the time that she has worked creating Wakami products, Garcia says she has learned a lot, both personally and professionally. She is now managing 30 other mothers who create jewelry with her. Garcia travels once a week to Guatemala City to obtain the materials needed for the creations of the jewelry, then brings them to her community of San Lorenzo, Sacatepequez, so that the group can fulfill its work orders. She says at first she was afraid of going to the city and leaving the house without her husband, but she has gained confidence and self-respect through this program.
“I feel proud because I have improved the quality of life for my family, and I never dreamed my work would be seen in other countries,” Garcia says.