Mayan Hands

Restoring a culture and weaving hope.

the story

Mayan Hands is a fair-trade nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Mayan women in their quest to bring their families out of extreme poverty as they continue to live within the culture they cherish. They believe that when provided economic opportunity and income over time, women can build sustainable futures for themselves, their families and communities.

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the people

Mayan women are the poorest of the poor in Guatemalan society, with few opportunities for an education and less for earning a living. Even though they are renowned as textile artists the world over, the lack of alternatives and fierce competition forces them to sell their products at very low prices, sometimes under cost.

the technique

For five centuries, Mayan women have transmitted through weaving esoteric designs that encoded the Mayan vision of the world. In this manner, the work of weavers was essential for the survival of important elements of ancient culture. Mayan Hands partners with more than 200 women artisans in 13 communities in the Guatemalan Highlands. Mayan Hands has been working alongside these artisans for 25 years and has brought a visible change in the lives of the women. They speak out, resist domestic oppression, and counting on a regular income now have more control over their lives; their families eat better, and all their children go to school, some even to the university.

In addition to offering fair wages for their work, Mayan Hands provides additional support to each artisan partner, such as micro-lending, training in new skills and techniques, business and leadership development, access to health care, as well as classes in gender role awareness, domestic violence, conflict resolution, and herbal medicine. The Mayan Hands Education Fund which provides scholarships to the daughters of our artisan partners and school supplies to all children.

Most of the women who work with Mayan Hands have had no more than a third-grade education, and many have had no formal education. One of the most important things that working with Mayan Hands does is make it possible for them to send their children to school, including their daughters. With encouragement, an annual gift of school supplies, and scholarships, Mayan Hands helps with what we see, and what the women see, as a very important change for the next generation. The women talk of their children becoming lawyers, teachers, doctors or some other kind of professional. Through weaving they are changing the lives of their families and providing for a future generation.

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Photo Credit: Mayan Hands