Every March we have the opportunity to celebrate Women’s History Month. It’s a beautiful time to honor and reflect on the contributions that history-making women have made within our culture and society. We’re reminded of and inspired by their incredible accomplishments so that we, too, can continue growing, challenging gender norms, and changing the world!
Empowering women has been the mission of Nena & Co. since its beginning. Nena & Co. was established to celebrate the cultures of the Artisans, preserve a dying art, and provide a living wage to the talented women who create the textiles. As Nena & Co. has continued to grow over the years, seeing the Artisans and the Nena community flourish has been so rewarding for us. Through this entire journey, our desire to celebrate and connect women around the world has remained.
As we continue this mission and celebrate Women's History Month, it’s only fitting to highlight the women who continue to inspire us the most – Our Artisans. They inspire us with what they have accomplished as women in their communities and what they create with their art of weaving. We value them, their cultures and traditions, and their talents. As we continue working with them, our never-changing goal is to empower them to be the best versions of themselves. Here's how!
We Empower Them to Be Leaders
Many of the women we work with live in very patriarchal societies. This means they're responsible for cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. Weaving is also included in that role but was only intended as a means to make clothes for their families and children, not to create a business. It’s uncommon for a woman to be able to provide for her family on her own.
Working outside of the home, being leaders, and making their own decisions should be options for these women to choose from! For those reasons, we love hiring and partnering with the women Artisans in these societies. As we work with them, we see them step into their own and become leaders with the confidence to pursue what sets their souls on fire while also setting an example for those that come after them.
In Guatemala, Yolanda runs the weaving cooperative that makes many of our most-loved Heritage and Society (H&S) bags. As a talented leader in the weaving community, she has begun teaching women within her collective how to weave. This has given many others the opportunity to preserve the art, generate an income, and strengthen the community.
In Mexico, Pastora is also the leader of a weaving cooperative called Vida Nueva. She started her cooperative about 23 years ago and shared with us how hard it was to get her business going. She mentioned that women weren’t taken seriously especially when it came to business, and others would often be critical and say hurtful things. However, she knew that the cooperative would be a positive change for the women in her community, so she kept going! She’s an example of going against the norm and although it hasn’t been easy for her and the other women weavers, she loves what she does and feels grateful to all the people who have helped them on their journey.
Seeing these amazing women become leaders in their communities and being able to support them in their endeavors is what we stand for and what brings us joy!
We Empower Them With Job Opportunities and Fair Wages
Sustainability isn’t exclusively about helping the environment. It has economic and societal factors as well such as wages and sustainable work. When we work with Artisans, they set their own rates based on their skills, experience, and needs. The factory standard salaries are equal to or higher than the regional average and minimum wage. We value their work and want them to feel they are being rewarded fairly.
We also created the Accessory of the Month Club to give Artisans consistent and sustainable work along with the opportunity to learn new skills. This is a subscription that allows you to receive a new accessory (or accessories!) handmade by the Artisans each and every month. It also means the Artisans producing the accessories have reliable work each month. Every 39 subscriptions provide full-time work for one person! This job security allows them to be independent and confidently provide for their families.
We Amplify Their Voices
Artisans are so important in helping us achieve our mission of honoring different cultures and producing sustainable products. Without them and their weaving talents, our mission could not be achieved. Because of all they do for us, it’s so important that we amplify these voices that otherwise might not be heard.
Every Artisan we work with has a story and we want to use our platform to share them! The history of weaving within these different families and cultures is incredible. The art has been passed down for generations in the hopes of preserving a family tradition and now, creating a sustainable income.
However, weaving hasn’t come easy for these women in their communities. Through the amplification of their voices we are confident that awareness and change can occur. Once you listen to their stories, we hope that you can gain a better understanding and appreciation for these women and their incredible talent.
Additionally, an important part of amplifying the Artisans’ voices is by listening to their feedback, even more so when it comes to the product they are working on. We’re fulfilled when they enjoy their work, feel heard, and are proud of what they’re creating! So, when their immediate needs affect product delivery time, we remain respectful of their pace and situation.
We Support Their Entrepreneurial Ideas
Empowering our Artisans to learn new skills is a way they can grow their talents and businesses. During our design processes, we ask to see any other designs they would like to share with us. This way we can broaden the design offerings they create.
In Mexico, the Artisans we work with create beautiful woven rugs but because of the pandemic, they weren’t able to sell them. While we specialize in bags and accessories, helping the Artisans out during a hard time tugged at our hearts. We placed them on our website and with the overwhelming support of our Nena community, we were able to sell out during multiple drops!
It's beautiful to know that when we seek to help our Artisans in their other endeavors, the Nena community responds with so much love. We will always be grateful that they share our love for the Artisans.
We Mentor and Give Them Educational Opportunities
These women Artisans are passionate to keep learning, creating, and innovating. It’s what they always respond with when we ask them what goals they have for the future. On many occasions, they come to us wanting to learn and try new techniques or designs. We love this and strive to find a way for them to expand their knowledge and capabilities and reward them for their creativity.
Additionally, getting a higher education has become increasingly important in these developing countries. Weaving is a way that many of these Artisans can make this happen. For single mothers, weaving is a way they can help their children get a higher education after providing the necessities of life. For homes that have two incomes, weaving allows the family to have another income strictly for an education fund. It’s beautiful to know that many Artisans have already been able to provide their children with higher education opportunities that allow for brighter futures.
Empowered Women Empower Women
As a company, we feel very fortunate to see the meaningful creations and hard work of these Artisans and fulfilled when we can connect them with you. Every bag and accessory created was thoughtfully and intentionally made by a weaver. Thank you for supporting our mission and aiding us in empowering these women!
Learn more about our Artisans by checking out these additional resources:
Click the button below to see all of the current bags and accessories made by these Artisans!