Jumataki and the Working Women of La Paz

26 Mar, 2018 | Dikshali Shah

Social issues

Illustration: Jumataki

An entrepreneurial cooperative supports small-business women

The mañaneras set their cloth and artisan goods up on calle Illampu by 6.30am in the early morning, sell throughout the day, and then, upon their dismissal by the police (for occupying space not belonging to them), they carry their loads back to El Alto, or even farther into the altiplano. The strong work ethic of these women, their dedication to bartering and business, can be an inspiration to all.

Many other empowered Bolivian women are now inspired to find new ways to make their living through a cooperative called Jumataki. Initiated in May 2014, its name means ‘for you’ in Aymara. Two of the cooperative’s 30 members, Maruja Laura Gómez and Olga Bustillos, sew impressive, intricate designs onto telas that can be used for tablecloths or bedspreads. Other Jumataki members produce other creative goods and administer the business side of the members’ ventures.

Another member, Virginia Condori, runs a laundry service in the Centro de Modas in the Calacoto neighbourhood of La Paz’s Zona Sur. Jumataki grants women the flexibility to work from home as well as in its office on calle 21. This allows its members to look after their families as well as to learn new skills from each other. Jumataki offers flexibility for women and encourages them to use their creativity in an entrepreneurial manner.

Many empowered Bolivian women are now inspired to find new ways to make their living.

Artisan Olga Bustillos appreciates this flexibility of lifestyle that Jumataki offers to its members. Having worked in this field since 1985, when she was 13 years old, she mentions that she does not need to sacrifice family time to her job. The ease of seeing her children and working from home when she wants to give her a comfortable lifestyle. ‘I don’t lose out either way,’ she says.

Bustillos and Laura Gómez say their clients appreciate the skill involved in their work, which can be time-consuming. For example, a bedspread or tablecloth can take up to one month to complete. ‘It’s a killer,’ Bustillos says about her work that requires so much skill and concentration.

The members of Jumataki have solidarity with one another, and, as one member says, ‘no one abandons us.’

For Bustillos, what she values most is the social aspect of her job, in which she negotiates with customers and works with women who share similar lifestyles to her. The members of Jumataki have solidarity with one another, and, as Bustillos says, ‘no one abandons us.’ Her customers come every day to purchase her goods, and her job she says, is so much more worthwhile than ‘being trapped between the four walls of my home.’


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