I joined Ruraq Maki’s Board last year because I was looking for a growing nonprofit working on improving women’s rights. As a woman, especially as a white privileged woman, I always felt the need to give back to others who did not get the same opportunities. Meeting Amanda convinced me that Ruraq Maki was the organization I wanted to support because she identified real needs in both Bolivia and Peru and I want to help her grow the programs she started. The women ask about when she’s coming back months in advance because they know how much of an impact the programs make on their lives. To me, Ruraq Maki offers isolated women a real chance at economic independence by organizing workshops that not only train and help them build a full skill set, but also because we believe in their abilities and they start to do the same. For example, in last summer’s business development workshop the new instructors said the incarcerated women were amongst the brightest that had attend their workshop. Amanda said that the instructor, “Spoke about financial accounting and demonstrated an easy, yet effective way, to keep track of earnings, spending and profit (or loss). The women were walked through an example and they got a sense of the way money flows in and out of the business. One of the women was incredible at doing math in her head and she was shouting out sums and products while the rest of us were still scratching our heads, trying to understand the equation.” Another thing I especially like is the intergenerational approach of Ruraq Maki. For example, last summer in Independencia we first met with mothers and grandmothers and then had another jewelry class with younger girls. It is great to be able to reach these communities in their entirety. They have different perspectives on life and experience, of course, but all can learn from each other, improving their future as a community. Finally I want to say I am proud to be part of an organization using fair trade practices as I truly believe this is a big part of the solution towards ending inequality.
Vrnda joined Ruraq Maki in May 2015. Here she shares her background and why she works with artisans. I always had this desire to work in India and on one fine November in 2010, up and moved to work for an organization that provided employment opportunities to women and men in the handicraft sector. Unbeknownst to me, what was supposed to be a 15 month stint turned into the most beautiful and amazing three years. While I was there I learned that due to the rise of industrialization in conjunction with a lack of respect and value for crafts, many artisans in India were leaving their passion to pursue work in major cities. They were taking up jobs in construction and transportation causing the identity and the root of the craft to slowly fade. The newer generation was less interested in learning the craft as they saw their parents struggle to make means and earn respect. The organization which I worked for aimed to create international market linkages for products made by artisans. The mission was to create sustainable livelihood and directly connect self-help groups to markets, eliminating middle men and generating more value down the chain. During my experience, I had the opportunity to interact with many large retailers and slowly began to realize why it was so difficult for artisans to directly work with them. Retailers are demanding, they do not have the capacity, resources, and man power to work with smaller suppliers who many need training and hand holding. Furthermore, handmade products have this negative stigma of being of low quality and therefore in-expensive and cheap. All of this combined creates a barrier preventing artisan made products from seeing the light of day. I joined Ruraq Maki earlier this year after moving back from India. I had a yearning to continue the work that I so vehemently loved doing and Ruraq did just that. It gave me the chance to not only learn about a new culture and art technique but also the opportunity to help create market linkages for women in Peru and Bolivia. We create employment opportunities so these women can sustain their own livelihood. At the end of the day this truly makes my heart smile.
Devin Montalto has been a member of Ruraq Maki's Board for the past four years and has worked with the organization from its inception. Here she shares her experience with Ruraq Maki. I am a native San Franciscan with a strong foundation in advocacy work and education. I have been involved with Ruraq Maki since 2009 and joined the board in 2012. I recognize that in my life I have continually had the privilege of access to information and resources as well as creative classes and opportunities. Working with Ruraq Maki I have been able assist others in acquiring access to information based off their own needs and interests. Because I have been with Ruraq Maki since its inception I have done everything from fundraising planning and implementation to promotion, managing volunteers, acting as oversight and support for the Director and taking care of any bumps in the road along the way. Recently as our board has grown and my role has become more specific I have begun to interview the woman of the Yanamilla Prison in order to asses what their needs are and what type of education and enrichment courses they are interested in. This information will help Ruraq Maki best meet the needs of the women as well as gain access to funding and possible grants. It is important to me as we work with these populations of women, that we are truly listening and representing them as best we can, that their voices are heard and their stories told. Watching the enjoyment, empowerment and capability that comes from taking classes that fulfill their desires, needs and interests is the main reason that I love the work that I do with Ruraq Maki.
Shivani Mittal has been a Board Member at Ruraq Maki for the past three years. Here she discusses the vital role she plays in the organization and what motivates her to keep going. Why are you a Board Member of Ruraq Maki? Being a woman and coming from a country where more than 20% of population lives below the poverty line, I have always felt a very strong affinity to support the needs of women all around the world. After finishing my graduate school, I moved to the Bay Area in California for my job. Soon I started exploring opportunities to bring a meaningful change in the lives of impoverished women in underdeveloped nations and joined Ruraq Maki to make this aspiration come true. Ruraq Maki supports incarcerated women in Peru and female weavers in Bolivia in a very unique way. Focused on identifying different talents in these women, we help them gain expertise in their area of interest by organizing various classes and workshops. The organization creates economic opportunities for these women by selling their beautiful products in United States along with helping them acquire the necessary skills that will earn them a livelihood on a permanent basis. What do you do? I am responsible for driving Ruraq Maki’s Sales and Marketing efforts. In this capacity I am on a continuous lookout for opportunities to exhibit and sell Ruraq Maki products at fair trade prices. I coordinate with craft fairs and festivals all across the Bay Area throughout the year. I am also involved in fundraising efforts and seek donations from individuals and local businesses in the area. Why do you love doing it? I have always been keen on giving back to the community. Supporting other women gives me a sense of immense peace and pleasure. Bringing a positive change in someone’s life is a valuable and unequaled experience for me. I personally feel very confident that Ruraq Maki has succeeded in bringing rays of hope and joy in the lives of many underprivileged women which is why I love what I do for this organization.