Friendship Bridge client for seven years.
Gender inequality remains rampant across Guatemala, and it often has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable sectors of society, such as the rural indigenous communities. Girls have been particularly affected, and they remain burdened with far more obligations than rights. This is the case of Rosario, currently 48 years old and a mother of four. She is originally from the rural community Cantel in the department of Quetzaltenango. The residents of Cantel place work primarily in the production of textiles, handicrafts, agricultural activity, livestock, and trade.
Rosario, one of four children (two brothers, one sister), had a sad childhood. Her father, who was a day laborer, suffered a mental illness; some days he worked, other days it was impossible for him to leave the house. Rosario's mother, on the other hand, was engaged in handwashing clothes for their neighbors to make some money to be able to cover the needs of the family. Rosario desired to help her mother; thus, at the young age of ten, while still in the second grade, she decided to leave school and take a job as a nanny in the city of Quetzaltenango. When she was 14, she returned to her community, but not to her family. Instead, she was adopted by another family in their community that could not have children themselves. Rosario's new family continued raising her; from them she also learned different embroidery techniques.
At the age of 23, Rosario got married, and she now has four children (two daughters and two sons). As is common in Guatemala, especially in rural indigenous communities, when she married, she moved into the home of her husband's family, which was located in the department of Totonicapán. Her husband is a weaver and works in a weaving shop. When they got married, Rosario decided to transform her embroidery talent into a business. She got started by doing work for her neighbors, making traditional embroidery for them. After six years of living elsewhere, Rosario's father inherited a piece of land. The family made a great effort to build a house and thus return to their hometown.
Rosario spent several years serving mostly her neighbors with her embroidery business, but as demand increased, she began to buy wholesale yarns. The owner of the yarn shop told Rosario about a lady who had several textile stores and who was buying embroidery; she advised Rosario to contact the buyer about her products - such a partnership could mean regular orders and secure income, after all. Rosario called the lady, who ended up visiting Rosario's home to see her products first-hand. Rosario herself visited her new client's stores, as well, to better understand her needs and style. Soon after, they made a deal. To meet the increase in demand for her products, Rosario employed six other people from her community.
It has been about 18 years since Rosario first joined Friendship Bridge. She had been seeking financial support to expand her business, and she remembers buying a variety of quality yarns with her first loan. Rosario soon realized, however, that the benefits of being a part of Friendship Bridge far exceed those related to financing. She received training on topics related to business administration, family, women and health; this newfound knowledge left her feeling empowered and better equipped to increase her income.
Rosario was one of the first artisan clients to join Handmade by Friendship Bridge. She remembers being invited to receive trainings specifically for handcrafts. To this day, she is glad she accepted the invitation, as she has been able to learn so many things. The trainings that have been most invaluable to her include the ones covering topics such as product diversification, creativity, color combination variation depending on the season, measurements used in foreign markets, and budgeting. Now, in addition to embroidery, she also makes purses, cosmetic bags, and bag handles, among other products.
Rosario feels blessed to be part of Friendship Bridge, as it gives her access to capital for her business as well as general trainings about topics such as self-esteem, empowerment, women's rights, and more. She has also received visits from nurses to her home for her health check, thanks to the Health for Life program. Finally, Handmade by Friendship Bridge - in addition to providing training and knowledge - has also provided Rosario with a space to meet other artisans and form lasting friendships.
- Rosario has two daughters and two sons.
- Before COVID-19, Rosario employed six embroiderers.
- Now she employs three embroiderers.