In most villages in the Toledo District, women contribute
significantly to the growth and improvement of
entrepreneurship that relates to development. In the
district, Mayan women are very active in selecting the type
of venture they choose to pursue. In all Mayan villages,
women group together to establish some type of development.
Projects are drafted through the assistance of NGO's
involved. These projects undertake to build centers for a
corn mill, rice huller, arts and crafts, pottery, weaving,
carving, thread making, calabash preparation, just to
mention a few. The women are very successful in the search
Production is well on its way in many of the activities
mentioned. Recently a craft center was erected in Punta
Gorda Town to house production from various Maya villages
for market. This center serves as a main outlet for these
products. The Fajina Craft Center has opened for the
marketing of baskets, clay pots, bracelets made out of
threads, beads, embroidery, clay earrings, and other crafts
made by the women's groups in the villages. The Fajina
center is funded by donor agencies.
Maya women work hard to keep their household clean and
also work along with their husbands in the plantations.
Although a man maintains the family financially, the woman
has a very important role to play. When the man is out
working for money she ensures that everything goes well in
the family. They work along with other women communally for
the benefit of the village. They are serious, happy, and
approachable in their home.
San Antonio Women's Group
In San Antonio they have five women's groups. The only
group interviewed was the Tiger women's group in San
Miss Teodora Castellano is the Chairlady. She has
forty-six members. Due to rain, only twenty-three were
present for the interview. Within the group, they decided to
build a craft shop where they could market their products.
The size of the land for the building is 14 x 20 yards. They
also want to open a small restaurant, they said.
I interviewed the women who make the straw baskets,
clay-pots, calendar-days and calendar-months. Some create
toucan picture on cloth. According to Miss Teodora
Castellano, she would like to see more development.
The first conversation was with Miss Ambrosia Bol from
Crique Jute, who was embroidering a picture with jaguar
picture on cloth. She said she did not do it all day, just
half time. She will sell it for BZ[$40] [US
$20]. She learned this skill with the group.
Miss Felicima Coc of Crique Jute was making a toucan
picture on cloth. How did she learn? She also said from the
group. She just does it part time, not all day. According to
her, it takes three weeks to make one of the pictures. She
sold it for BZ$20 [US$10].
Miss Jacinta Choc spoke about baskets. She said she gets
the jipijapa from the bush and boils it, which is a lot of
work. She sits down to weave. She said it takes two weeks to
make one basket, not working all day. She also said that she
did it part time, depending on the size of basket. A big one
sells for BZ$85 [US $42.50].
Miss Amelia Coc works on clay pots. She makes them from
clay collected from river or creek banks. It's a special
clay, she said. She can make clay pots big and small as well
as braclets. She sells a small pot for BZ$5 [US
Miss Prudencia Coc, from San Antonio, works on
embroidery. She learned it from her mother when she was
young so she could do her own embroidery work, but she also
sews for sale. She is member of a group. She does it part
time also. An embroidered blouse costs BZ$45 [US
Miss Maria Oh, Crique Jute, works on placemats to set
dishes on a table. She makes them out of straw. Tourist buy
them for BZ$5 [US $2.50] each. She said she works
part-time and it takes one week to make one placemat.
Miss Adela Bolon of San Antonio makes belts and waist
straps. She weaves them and it takes time. One belt takes
two weeks. One women's belt costs BZ$5 [US $2.50] or
more depending on the size. She learned this craft from the
Miss Angela Chun from San Antonio makes Mayan calendars.
She does not know what it means. She learned it from
Donatila Chun. One calendar costs BZ$20 [US $10].
She also works on them part time.
Miss Felicima Coc from San Antonio makes baskets from
bay'l [Ke'kchi] or buyul [Mopan] obtained in
the forest. Her husband also works on baskets. It takes him
one week to make one, part time. It sells for BZ$20 [US
$10], depending on the size.
Miss Clara Cum makes clay pots with a special clay mix.
It takes one week to mold. She works for her use only. She
sells a pot when it is ordered by someone. Depending on the
size, a big one costs BZ$30 [US $25].
Miss Teodora was interviewed with the long dress she has
used from the time she was engaged. It is the way the Mayas
used to dress. It's very respectful to wear a long dress,
she said. She would like to see the younger generation use a
long dress instead of the modern style. But she said they
have an excuse: the long dress costs more, is too heavy to
wash, and takes more time to sew. Today some of the younger
girls use pants, she said. She did not like to see it. She
would prefer the longer dress. Everybody agrees on this.
The members of the San Antonio Tiger Women's Group were
very proud of themselves to be interviewed and pleased to
explain how they strive to improve their group.
We support the development and increased involvement of
women leaders in our movement to preserve our land, culture
and resources. Although women are nominated, they often
decline to become leaders. We have identified the following
obstacles to the meaningful integration of women:
- Women do not have the same access to education, and
often lack literacy required for leadership.
- Women lack the experience of what role an
organization plays in achieving goals.
- Women are not exposed in their daily life experience
to villages outside Toledo.
- Women's husbands do not always support their efforts
to become involved.
- Women lack skills that would make it possible for
them to market their arts and crafts effectively.
- Women leaders should be trained to be able to speak
for the benefit of her group or community.
- The woman leader's family and community should
support her so she can dedicate herself to attend all
available training, workshops, and conferences, after
which she will come back to the community to share what
she experienced and was taught.
- Efforts to find funding locally and/or
internationally should include women's activities and
technical assistance for women's involvement. Women
should participate in raising money for these
- In order to promote better leadership skills among
group members and make women leaders available to partake
in community development, we support family spacing.
- The promotion and marketing of women's arts and
crafts will be assisted through the development of
brochures with pictures and cost of high quality items
for sale to be issued both locally and internationally.
In July of 1997 the Maya women came together to begin
a Maya women's organization. The association would serve
as a platform for women's development needs. Pulcheria
Teul has been organizing the women to become active and
to assert their voices in the development of