Small but big steps
“I thought, how can I not believe in myself when a team of people and a group of experienced artisans believe in me? When I was in front of the artisans, telling my story, and it moved them, I could see in their faces that I was an inspiration for them, I can be someone that inspires people.”
This is the story of Eli, a young Mapuche woman from Chile, shy and unsure of her ability to earn a sustainable living, while following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother in the profession of artisan weaver.
Eli was invited to participate in the 2015 Artistri Sud ASSET training in Chile by a friend, who saw in her a great potential as a craftswoman and leader. “Leader? Me?” She thought. “Personally, I did not consider myself a leader, or think that I had the potential for it. I was used to receiving orders, or following someone else. Leaders for me were them, the women who invited me to the training.”
For Eli, her time with the ASSET training program was transformational. These were 5 intensive days full of learning and new challenges, on a wide range of topics like entrepreneurship, accounting, market research, and customer interaction. While attending the training she started to question herself, “What role am I playing in society? In my community? What is my role as an indigenous woman?” With this growing sense of purpose and self-awareness, she began to assume a leadership role among the artisans of her group, “I was no longer afraid– I generated and expressed my own ideas, and a new sense of responsibility to my colleagues made my commitment to improve even greater.” Together as a group, they successfully completed the year of coaching that followed the ASSET program. But for Eli, her path at Artistri Sud was not over, in fact it was just beginning.
In 2016 and 2017, Eli took on the challenge to be part of the Artistri Sud Train-the-Trainers (TTT) program. In retrospect, she said that she would never have signed up for the program had she known how much was involved. But now she is so glad that she did, as it gave her the courage and confidence to pursue her dreams.
This past summer, Artistri Sud was asked by TFO-Canada, a provider of trade facilitation for exporters from developing countries, to lead an entrepreneurship training session for a group of Aymara artisan-entrepreneurs from the north of Chile who are aspiring to export to Canada. Eli stepped up to take on the role of sole trainer for this 3-day training. “I carried a great backpack of learning, responsibility and also some fear, but my years of training with Artistri Sud and having people who bet on me and believed in me, allowed me to let go of my fears and continue my development. But it was not easy to accept the challenge, and as the days approached, my anxiety increased, but inside, I said: I can do this.” Eli successfully trained 43 artisan women this past July, using an abbreviated version of the Artistri Sud ASSET training program.
In her own words, “If I stop to reflect on how much I have advanced personally and professionally since I had the opportunity to participate in ASSET 2015, I am overcome with gratitude and amazement. I no longer minimize my achievements as I did before. Being an artisan, from an indigenous community, with these amazing tools, allows me to empower more women, and to encourage them to rescue their culture and to awaken their motivation to get ahead.”
Artistri Sud is very proud to have played such a pivotal role in Eli’s transition into a self-supporting entrepreneur, role model, and teacher. Not only has she improved her own life and that of her immediate family, but she has also touched the lives of so many others within her community and further away, as a skilled trainer with entrepreneurial experience. She is our first, of what we hope to be many, Artistri Sud graduate to use the skills gained through our Train-the-Trainers program to multiply the impact we make in the developing world.
“My plans are no longer just for me. If I can do it, I can also take other women on this journey. Small but big steps.”
Written by Delia So, edited by Marsha Hughes.
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