Peruvian Women: From Impoverished to Breadwinners

While assistance in the form of food and money can be wonderfully helpful, they're not sustainable ways to provide help to those who are struggling. Peru is a country that's home to a significant amount of rural poverty, but thanks to some inventive new programs, its participants may find a way out of it. 

The Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD) started a program called INKAcase as a way to blend traditional Peruvian weaving techniques with modern utilities. It effectively pays women-weavers to use their traditional craftwork in order to create colorful cases for iPads and tablets that are then sold through websites like DesignedGood.

The program’s goal is to provide women in the Chaquecancha community with the means to become agents of their own sustainable business, while preserving and sharing their own artistic traditions. The agency’s website reports that the INKACases are all hand-woven from natural and locally sourced materials like sheep and alpaca wool.

Chaquencancha is a remote area located 12,000 feet above sea level and a two-hour bus ride from the nearest town. Its area government reports that 75 percent of the children living there are malnourished. Though the community typically harvests food like potatoes and corn, residents report that the money earned from harvests is so little it’s not enough to keep them fed properly.

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However, since starting the INKAcase program, its 18 participants report that they have the ability now to run their own households, buy schoolbooks for their children, and take care of their families in ways previously not possible.  The women are also pooling their money to buy the village a new flock of sheep after an epidemic wiped them out last year.

INKAcase is part of an ongoing movement of Peruvian-based initiatives aimed at engaging women in commerce. Another organization called ALIADOS works in tandem with the Peruvian government to wipe out the country’s rural poverty by co-funding local businesses that area residents develop themselves.

Recently 31 women of Apurimac, Peru petitioned ALIADOS for seed money to start a noodle-making business. The women themselves provided a fraction of the start-up costs, which they raised through activities like recycling. ALIODOS kicked in the rest. Today, because of the help they received from the organization, these Peruvian women earn a living making what have become internationally-distributed homemade noodles.


These initiatives, much like the previously reported FairMail and other programs like it, are exemplary of a no-charity framework of assistance where participants are given sustainable work, job skills and the sense of accomplishment that comes from earning money. More importantly, these efforts  focus on bettering the lives of women and children specifically, who are traditionally not given a voice or the means to be agents of their own financial destiny. Putting the power back in their hands means they have the ability to not only take care of themselves, but affect the political, social and economic courses of their own communities.

Would you be more willing to donate to a fund that taught job skills to people in need, or is a traditional charity an endeavour you prefer supporting? Let us know in the Comments.

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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer.  In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a web editor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for Email Andri | @andritweets |