Gender equality

Women's Cooperative Spins Ancient Technologies into Commercial Success

When ancient technologies connect with modern methods, the results can change lives. It can happen even in places where hope is hard to come by. In one of the world’s most remote places in Argentina, reconnecting with the past is showing the way into the future.

Date issued: 12 December 2008 | Size/duration: 00:03:26 (8.6 MB)
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It is one of the most astoundingly beautiful places on earth. This is the high desert of northwestern Argentina... untouched by time, and now, reconnecting to an ancient tradition.

For centuries in this windy, desolate place, the indigenous Kolla people have raised llama as pack animals, for food, and for wool.

Now the time-tested tradition of shearing fleece by hand, and spinning it into high quality wool is bringing new hope to a region with chronic unemployment. For women like Eugenia Gutierrez, it all comes naturally. This ancient art is her passion.

Eugenia Gutierrez, Wool Spinner

I have been spinning wool ever since I was six years old. All my life, I have considered myself a spinner. I adore spinning. And I am a craftswoman, specializing in spinning thread.

This is the Punha Cooperative, where women spin wool in the old traditional way. The FORMUJER programme from the ILO Inter-American Centre for Vocational Training CINTERFOR helped make this ancient tradition a commercial success. FORMUJER helps indigenous and non-indigenous women in Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Argentina connect traditional technologies with modern methods of organization, production and distribution.

FORMUJER helped the spinners understand the high quality wool they produce is also valuable outside Abra Pampa. Now, the Cooperative’s wool, and the articles made from it, are sold around the region in a network of schools and shops, even on the internet. FORMUJER also changed Eugenia’s life: she became a leader of the cooperative, and its first woman president.

Eugenia Gutierrez, Wool Spinner

It changed my vision, from being only a craftswoman to becoming a community leader who thinks about, and understands the needs of others.

Sara Silviera was the regional coordinator of the FORMUJER program.

Sara Silviera, FORMUJER Programme

Eugenia is a clear example, across the region, of how it is possible to grow and to transform oneself with support, training and stimulation.

Now the Punha Cooperative is working towards recognition by Argentina’s Ministry of Labour as a vocational training institution, which means new resources. And Eugenia travels around Argentina, showing how skills development training leads to professionalism, commercial know-how, higher productivity, and better income. The threads of Eugenia’s own life have been woven into a new fabric: stronger, more resilient, and aware that she has the power to change her life, and inspire others.

Eugenia Gutierrez, Wool Spinner

I have to learn something new every day. I cannot stick to what I have learned and leave it at that. Day by day I am learning more. Learning does not finish, ever.