Women weavers, entrepreneurs find strength in numbers in Guatemala

Photos by Kelly Diggins

Tecpan is a town located in the central plateau region of Guatemala, about 2 hours drive from Guatemala City. In one of its rural communities live 9 women with unique businesses, ranging from weaving to agriculture, who joined together to create the lending group Las Girasoles Tecpanecas (the Tecpan Sunflowers).

The Tecpan Sunflowers: Fidelina, Irma, Dolores, Maria Magdalena, Teresa, Bernarda, Anastacia, Susana and Ana Marina

As a lending group, these women support each other and help ensure each other’s financial success. They are a model of how women can come together to improve their position in Guatemala, earn respect in their communities, provide for their families and ensure their children get proper education. They are very enthusiastic about helping and collaborating with each other, and all of them have great expectations for their families and businesses in the future.

The group took out a $2,375 loan, which was successfully crowdfunded by 63 Kiva lenders in the summer of 2015. The women are currently repaying and are 75% of the way there! Receiving the support of investors from all around the world feels like a blessing to them, they said, especially because their indigenous background prevents them from many opportunities in Guatemala.

Meet a few of the amazing women who make up this lending group.

Susana: Tortillería owner and huipiles weaver

In the future, Susana hopes to continue growing her tortillería

Susana is the owner of a tortillería, selling delicious flat breads. Named by the Spanish, tortillas were a tradition among the Mayan even before colonization. Susana provides her community with this important and popular food. Her portion of the Kiva loan allowed her to purchase corn and wood for her small business, greatly improving her earnings.

In her spare time, Susana also weaves huipiles (traditional Mayan blouses), upon request. Her sought-after garments and her tortilla business ensures she is able to pay for the education of her 4 children and her family’s living costs, over time improving their living conditions and ensuring her children have many opportunities for their future.

Dolores: Tamales chef

Proud to own her small business, Dolores is grateful for receiving a Kiva loan

Dolores turned 68 in 2015. She is a pillar in her household, working hard making tamales every day for sale. Tamales are also a tradition in the Mayan culture and Guatemala is known for having hundreds of varieties, making it a base for the communities’ diet. Her work allows Dolores to be able to share the cost of living expenses and supports the education and sustainability of her family.

Because Dolores never had the opportunity to study, she is very engaged in motivating and supporting her children to complete their formal education. A Kiva loan enabled her to purchase ingredients for her tamales like new spices and rice. In the future, she hopes to be able to expand her small food business by reinvesting part of her earnings. Dolores wanted to tell her lenders it is a great benefit to have the opportunity to receive a loan.

Ana Marina: Expert weaver of traditional Mayan outfits

Ana Marina wants to expand her weaving business

Ana Marina weaves huipiles (traditional Mayan blouses), fajas (traditional Mayan belts), and napkins. Among one of the most highly decorated Mayan weavings, huipiles are traditional Mayan blouses that feature complex brocaded patterns. These traditional outfits display one’s religion and tribal affiliation, with different communities tending to have different designs, colors, lengths and ceremonial purposes.

With her portion of the Kiva loan she purchased thread to weave more items. Ana Marina uses her earnings to help pay for the education of her 4 children and sustain her family. Going forward, she hopes to expand her business and, most of all, hopes that her children complete their schooling, since she was unable to do so.

This group’s loans are managed by Kiva’s Field Partner Friendship Bridge. It has an extensive record providing micro credit and education to Guatemalan women to enable them to create their own solutions to poverty. In a country where women represent only 35% of the economically active population, this partner’s strong social mission to provide loans and educational services in areas with the lowest level of development, is a unique opportunity for many indigenous women.

Join thousands of other Kiva lenders backing inspiring women like Ana Marina, Dolores and Susan to celebrations of International Women’s Day. When you invest in her, you invest in change!

About the author

Diana Baule

Diana was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, where she graduated College with a Law Degree. After one year working with Constitutional Rights and Freedom of Speech in Brazil, she decided to move to the Bay Area. In San Francisco she graduated from Hult IBS with a Master’s degree in International Business. Diana then discovered a passion for online marketing and data analytics. While at Kiva, she wants to help all the entrepreneurs tell their stories, while driving even more people to Kiva.org. She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and the empowerment of women, and hopes to learn tons about micro credit and community development. She also loves traveling to new places and collecting stories and laughter from across the globe!