Ruth y Nohemi is a weaving cooperative located in Chontola, near Chichicastenango, Guatemala. In the late 1970s Pastor Diego Chicoj Ramos was appointed as a layman worker in the villages surrounding Chichicastenango. This area experienced some of the worst violence associated with the nation's civil war, and Diego's ability to work with the villagers was severely hindered during this time. When he was finally able to visit the villages of Chichicastenango after the war, he found that many women had lost their husbands in a raid on the church of Chontala.
Diego and his wife Juana dedicated themselves to helping the local women rebuild their lives. In 1986, the Ruth y Nohemi project was officially founded as a way for women to organize and market their handicrafts. Now more than 15 widows weave bright lengths of cloth on backstrap looms, and young men, trained as tailors, sew the cloth into finished products such as vests, bags, wallets and briefcases. These craftspeople are determined to ensure the survival of their families, their village and their culture, which they represent with the brightly woven floral designs in their textiles.
Maria Quino is one of the young women who has benefited from the assistance of the project. As a young woman, Maria produced woven goods for local middlemen. This work never provided significant income for her, but it was nonetheless important to her family's ability to support itself. After marrying, Maria began working with her sister-in-law to sell their goods in the local market. They did well for several years and were able to earn a decent living from their work.
Then Guatemala began to experience political and social upheaval. Maria's father disappeared and was never seen again. Survival was the first thing on Maria's mind, and traveling to the market was not practical in that environment. Many years later, an NGO started working in the area, helping communities to organize and providing credit for individuals wanting to form businesses. Maria and her sister-in-law obtained credit to purchase thread and began to sell their products in the market again. This time around Maria and her sister-in-law found it difficult to sell their products at reasonable prices.
When Diego and Juana approached Maria and her sister-in-law, the women were eager to find a new export market for their products. Now several family members are involved in the business. Maria and her family are paid a fair price for their products and the income derived from their work is important to the family. While Maria continues to sell her products in local markets, she does so only as a last resort when no export orders are available.
Sits neatly against my body with few contents, but expands to accommodate lots. The fine weave and lining make it very sturdy, and the wide shoulder strap makes even heavy loads comfortable to carry. One of my favourite bags - ever!
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A little about Asha Handicrafts: Asha Handicrafts provides the security of markets to small scale artisan workshops around India, like ANSA, the soapnut harvesters in Tamil Nadu.
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