Fw: Dr. Biden pool report—Guatemala 1

From: Nic Wirtz [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 04:46 PM
To: Gleeson, James
Subject: Dr. Biden pool report—Guatemala 1

Doctor Jill Biden continued her trip to Guatemala on Tuesday by visiting an NGO in the department of Sacatepequez before meeting with the Indigenous Youth Parliament.

In the morning, Doctor Biden was invited to spent time with the Wakami jewelry and accessory business in San Lorenzo del Tejar, Pastores.

A mere 15 minutes from Guatemala's tourism center of Antigua, San Lorenzo del Tejar is one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the country.  Wakami founder Maria Pachecho explained that she originally came to help with ecological and food projects but was persuaded by the local women to teach them business skills.

These include management, finance, production and marketing, part financed by US government grant funding through The Women’s Empowerment Americas (WEAmericas) initiative.  The project focuses on women-owned businesses in rural Guatemala.

"We think of these bracelets as messages.  They are messages to the world and when worlds connect, opportunities are created," said Mrs Pachecho. "Two countries coming together through their women generates change.  We can help our husbands and kids, the more we work, the more we create and the better we can educate our children."

Started in 2004, Wakami finds markets for local co-operatives who manufacture a range of bracelets, rings and accessories for diverse markets.

"Migrating products and bracelets rather than people can help keep families together in Guatemala," said Mrs Pachecho.  "What we need to do is open up more markets and so when Matilde has women knocking on her door for work, we know we need to sell more."

The US comprises 50% of Wakami sales, with 30% going to Asia, 10% to other countries and 10% staying in Guatemala.  Recently they completed a 40,000 bracelet order for Pepsi to promote change during local pop star, Ricardo Arjona's concert.

Working one-three hours a day, Doctor Biden heard how the women also maintain an eight hour schedule looking after their respective families.

"At first we only made Q50-100 ($6-12) a month but now we earn enough that my daughter is going to university to study to be a social worker," said local co-ordinator Matilde Garcia.  "We can earn enough to make our dreams come true."

Now women in the co-operatives earn $80-250 a month which is spent on the family food budget and to educate their children.  It also helps women gain respect in a machismo society and provide independently for their family.

"I admire you all for what you're doing.  In the US I'm a teacher and I teach classes of women like you," said Doctor Biden.  "I think you are all inspiring, my daughter is a social worker and I've always told her to be independent and make her own money."

The project started with an all-female workforce but has recently accepted its first male associates.  Doctor Biden was particularly moved by the stories of some of the workers who escaped abusive relationships to start a new life.

"You are examples for your own children.  You are good role models, I admire what you've been through and that you have persevered.  It's very important that women are helping other women."

Doctor Biden was presented with a bracelet and toured the workshop which doubles as Matilde's house.

Ends.

Nicholas Wirtz Americas Quarterly +xxx-xxx-xxxx-4613

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