Cuidando a las artistas
Change the life of a Mayan woman weaver through healthcare support
The stories of the Mayan women weavers of Santiago Atitlan
Catalina started working on the backstrap loom when she was a child by creating the fabric for the trousers of her brothers. Due to the lack of resources in her family, she was exposed early on to the physical efforts of weaving but could not receive adequate medical support in her childhood. Now that she is 54, her eye condition – which has never been treated – and the pain in her arms make it harder and harder for her to weave and, thus, to provide for herself and her two sisters.
For Mercedes is very important to earn money from her weaving activity since the salary of her husband is not enough to provide for her and their three children. Whenever she gets sick, she has to stop weaving for a while until she gets better. In those times, the whole family goes through a hard time.
For Dolores going to the doctor and buying medicine is difficult as the cost of doctor’s visit and the medicine is more than she can afford. It is common for her to neglect her own health to invest in clothes, school fees and other daily expenses for her 7 children. When someone in her family gets sick, she resorts to a pharmacy that gives her the medicine and allows her to pay through her hard work over the course of the following weeks. As she told us, sometimes hospitals and doctors in Santiago Atitlán offer free medical consultations. However, those are not coupled with the distribution of medicine, leaving the women with the knowledge of having a medical condition and the sad realization that they do not have the resources to care for it.
Cojolya and the precious work of Mayan women weavers
Cojolya, based in Santiago Atitlán by the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, is an association of Mayan women weavers working together since 1983 to create beautiful textiles and products using the traditional weaving technique of the backstrap loom. This ancient art has been preserved over the centuries despite historical oppression, along with the indigenous Tz’utujil language and the culture of the community.
In addition to its artistic and cultural value, backstrap loom weaving is also an important source of income for many women in Santiago Atitlán. Indeed, as they often do not have the opportunity to pursue an education, their weaving skills serve as their greatest economic asset and what allows them to provide for themselves and their families.
Why is healthcare so hard to reach?
Observing our weavers over the years, it has become clear to us that one of the hardest challenges in their life is taking care of their own health. Most of them have a variety of health issues, some related to their advanced age and others related to their work at the loom. Unfortunately, the lack of financial resources makes it incredibly hard for women to receive proper health care treatment.
Our solution: providing health care for the women artists through ‘Cuidando a las artistas’
The wellbeing of our 25 women artisans is central to their economic situation and to Cojolya’s work. For this reason, we would like to support them in accessing health care. Last October, we organized two free healthcare days for the weavers involving physiotherapists, general doctors, and a psychologist. After listening to their positive feedback, we have decided to institutionalize these efforts in a new project by the name of ‘Cuidando a las artistas’, Spanish for ‘Taking care of the women artists’.
Through this project, we will provide our weavers with:
- Monthly healthcare days with general doctors
- Medical consultations with specialists
- Free distribution of medicine
- Funding for surgeries and hospitalization
- Monthly workshops on different aspects of self-care
Our objective is to give them the resources necessary to focus on their health and support them in coping with age-related health issues.
In Cojolya, we work every day on our vision to allow Maya women weavers to reach and maintain economic independence through their precious work on the backstrap loom. By giving them the chance to get medical support, they will gain a better quality of life and will be able to work and provide for themselves and their families in a dignified way.
You can make this possible!
Reflect for a moment about a time in which you or a loved one faced a health issue. Can you remember how fundamental the presence of medical support had been in that occasion?
With your small contribution, you can provide that support in the life of a woman weaver and her family.
The donations that we will receive through this campaign will sustain our project for the year 2020. We will greatly appreciate any kind of support we will receive, being it in money, donation of medicine or by spreading the word of our campaign with your friends.
We warmly thank you for your attention and commitment and hope to see you soon in our town.
The women weavers of Santiago Atitlán