Warmipa Makin

From: La Oroya, Junin

Marleni, Adela, and Soledad.
Marleni, Adela, and Soledad.

Group Members: Adela Yachachin Amaro, Soledad Terrel Atoc, Marleni Terrel Rosales, Herlinda Atachagua Silvestre

Warmipa Makin is a group of women knitters from La Oroya that always dreamed of running their own business but was never able to attract enough orders to make their business succeed. The principles of Fair Trade have helped the women organize themselves, establish their prices, and manage their production costs and cash flow. As the group’s creativity grew, so did their efficiency and solidarity. One member of the group said, “We thought we knew everything about knitting, but we have learned so much more than we thought possible. Before we did not value the knitting we did as work because we’d always done it. But now we realize that our knitting helps to support our household and that we should have a say in the decisions that are made.”  The women now teach others who are not part of their group to knit.

The group’s name in Quechua means, “Women’s Hands.” Warmipa Makin grew out of Filomena, an organization in La Oroya that works with women in gender development. Not only do they participate in Fair Trade to bring in a small income to their families, but they also participate in order to join the fight against a chauvinistic culture and a contaminated environment.

How do they do this with their artisan work? They stand up against a chauvinistic culture by simply contributing to the family’s income. Cleaning, cooking, and caring for the kids are seen as obligatory tasks of the woman and anything else is secondary. When the women of Warmipa Makin have an order, they dedicate their time to their artisan work and ask that their husbands watch the kids for an evening. This sometimes causes arguments, but the women press on. They receive support from Filomena in this task, and though they still encounter resistance at times, they have seen positive results in their families. “My mom has already domesticated my dad,” says Pamela, the daughter of Soledad. Her dad is now helping out with things like laundry and Soledad no longer feels trapped in the house. This new mentality has been passed down to Pamela now, who is currently studying communications in the nearby city of Huancayo.

La Oroya is located four hours east of Lima at an altitude of over 12,000 feet, and is the fifth most contaminated city in the world. The source of the heavy metal pollution is a smelter owned and operated by the Peruvian affiliate of the U.S. lead producer Doe Run of St. Louis, MO. Two of the group’s members have passed away from cancer in the past few years, and Warmipa Makin blames the contamination from Doe Run for their deaths. Doe Run recently formed an artisan group called Inca Fashion that receives heavy financial backing to try to flush out other artisan groups in the area, especially Warmipa Makin since their work with Filomena is directly against the actions of Doe Run. The women have found it difficult because a lot of women they used to contract on the side when there were large orders now work for Inca Fashion and won’t help them out. They also have lost friends and companions as women are forced to join up with Inca Fashion for lack of other economic options. Warmipa Makin is extremely grateful for the support of Fair Trade and their clients because it has allowed them to stay in business and continue the fight for a better world.

The group works together once a week, and more frequently when there is heavier demand.  They support each other and have a small amount of capital that they can loan group members for emergencies. Their vision for the future is to be able to have their own artisan store in Peru.