San Antonio Women's Co-op
San Ignacio, Belize
The San Antonio Women’s Co-op was formed by a local San Antonio Women’s Group made up of nine Mayan women, with a goal to “empower women and inspire the children.” The women started the cooperative to find a way to earn an income, learn new skills, and share their traditional knowledge not only with visitors but with the younger generation.
The success of the tourism business has resulted in the cooperative employing nine more women and supporting 11 local artisans. The cooperative created a community fund, to sponsor girl’s education and have since sponsored the education of two girls who have recently graduated from high school.
The village of San Antonio, a community of 3,500 people in western Belize, has its roots in Mayan traditions and currently practices subsistence agriculture. The average household has seven children, and as in many cultures around the world where resources are scarce, education for women is not prioritized. Girls often go without attending school beyond primary levels. Government support is not easy to access, and so mothers rely on other forms of income to help support their children’s education and send their daughters to high school. With little education, many girls and boys find themselves unemployed at an early age, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.
Planeterra provided a grant to the San Antonio Women’s Co-op (SAWC), which allowed them to build an indoor workshop space. The new space has increased the centre’s capacity to host many more travellers and has given them added space to safely house their products. This space also resulted in the cooperative being able to add a training program for unemployed youth in the community so that they too can benefit from tourism.
While at the cooperative, travellers try their hand at ancient pottery-making techniques with a group of Mayan artisans, enjoy a delicious home-made lunch, and have a chance to purchase pottery and other crafts made by the women in the community.