Atenas Artisan's Cooperative

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Southern New Hampshire University
The objective of this project was to create a viable income for stay-at-home mothers and wives in Atenas, Costa Rica, by organizing a cooperative which could market their handicraft products in formal markets. Before the start of this project, these women had been selling their products in informal markets to earn supplemental income for their families. The husband is typically the principle household earner, but many men are not earning enough money in their jobs to adequately provide for their families. Many women would like to earn a viable income to help provide for their families but either lack the necessary skills to work outside the home or are unable to do so due to their household and childcare responsibilities. In response, women in Atenas have been addressing this issue by sewing, painting, and making handicrafts that are sold to friends and neighbors to earn money. Supplemental income earned from these handicrafts is often insubstantial however, averaging at around 5% of the family monthly income. This project assisted 20 women in organizing into a cooperative which is acting as a mechanism to market their products on the local and international markets as well as seek funding and obtain small business loans. The cooperative structure also acts as a social network for community involvement and greater voice in local politics. The cooperative project has enabled these women to transform their lives through bringing about economic, social, and political change. To date these women have succeeded in forming the cooperative structure which enables them to make their products from home while attending weekly meetings that consist of skills training, information, and networking. Under the cooperative name, these women have been able to add value to their products by marketing them as a social investment in the women of the community and their families. This marketing strategy has allowed these women to reach niche international handicraft and artisan markets. The cooperative is in the process of partnering with several key US based organizations to sell their products abroad, as well as tapping into existing markets in Costa Rica. (Author abstract)