Ann Brooks Photography

Photojournalism, art photography, studio happenings & resources

Fighting poverty with micro finance in Oaxaca villages

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Last week I joined a group who went to visit women who are struggling entrepreneurs in the village of Teotitlán del Valle outside of Oaxaca City in Mexico. The village has been, for generations, a weaving village. Five of the women we visited are, in fact weavers.

We went with Investours, “tours that fight poverty”. Our guide was Carlos Hernandez Topete, co-founder of the non-profit organization. Carlos, a native of Oaxaca with a business degree from Boston University met Ashwin Kaja, currently studing law at Harvard and who had been researching how to blend tourism and micro finance. Carlos saw a way that Ashwin’s concept could be applied to villiages surrounding Oaxaca and in 2008 they created Investours. Click here to find out more about the organization and how you can participate. [March  2010, Investours changed their name to En Via and the link is to their new website.]

ABrooks_091003_002We visited two groups of three women in their own home studios where they showed us what they were making to sell and explained why they needed a loan, typically $100 to $150 US.

In the first group was Yanet Bagan who makes jewelry and uses the proceeds from sales to pay for transportation to be able to continue school as higher grades are some distance from the village. Yanet needed money to buy more of two types of wire. One a silver color, the other black. With it she will continue to be able to make more of her stunning wire-work earrings.

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Teresa Lopez was the first of four weavers who needed a loan to buy more yarn that is already spun and dyed. Though many weavers had done their own carding, spinning and dying of the wool, they now feel it is more efficient to have others do that time-consuming part of the process so that they can spend their time weaving.

ABrooks_091003_045Teresa Sosa was the third woman in the first group. Also a weaver, she wanted a loan so she could buy already spun and dyed yarn.

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In the second group of three, Soledad “Chole” Martinez (right) is a weaver, doing contract weaving for other weavers. However, because work is sometimes slow,for two years she has been selling Avon products to supplement income. She needed a loan in order to buy a small table to display her Avon products on in the village’s market place.

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Guadeloupe Contreras and Juana Bazán, both weavers each wanted loans to buy ready-spun and dyed yarn.

After visiting the two groups of three woman artisans, we went to a restaurant for a traditional Oaxican meal, At the end of the meal we discussed the groups, what their needs were and decided between us to which group our tour money would be given as an interest-free loan. In the end, it was agreed that the first group should be given the loan this time, but we all wanted to see Chole (the Avon lady in the second group) get her table and happily contributed a little more, specifically earmarked for that purpose.

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Click for Investours Facebook page ~ for Investours website ~ or email: see below.

NOTE: [March  2010, Investours changed their name to En Via and the link is to their new website. Email for emily is now — emily at envia.org.]


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