SKI Charities

SKI Charities Blog

Why It’s Essential to Keep Mapuche Art Alive

Our work in Southern Chile primarily focuses on women who are part of Chile’s largest indigenous group: the Mapuche. Meaning “people of the Earth,” the Mapuche resisted Spanish conquest and still today have maintained many aspects of their culture in the face of assimilation.

That’s just one of the reasons why in addition to providing Mapuche women with microloans to grow their own businesses, we started the SKILLS program. Through SKILLS (SKI Local Life Survey), we empower local artists to share their history and culture through works across the creative spectrum.

And though today the Mapuche make up only around 9% of Chile’s population, many Chileans have Mapuche in their blood—which makes it all the more important for the history of this resilient people to be shared through art, particularly through traditional artisan techniques that date back centuries.

Plus, many Mapuche artistic traditions are passed down from generation to generation—specifically from woman to woman.

Here are some of the traditions we’re helping artists explore through SKILLS and SKIMFI:

Silversmithing: Or rutran, as the Mapuche call it, is used to make traditional jewelry. The practice came into existence in the late 18th century after the Spanish invaded Chile. The Mapuche would melt down silver Spanish coins (which today have become useful in dating these objects) they acquired through trade and use them to create jewelry, which became a central aspect of the women’s attire. The appearance of the items varied widely across Chile, because they were designed to reflect the diversity of the Mapuche and the specific identities of different families, communities and geographies.

Though it’s been said that there are no more traditional Mapuche silversmiths in Chile, women in our SKIMFI program use their microloans to create and sell jewelry that reflects their history and culture.

Hand-made Mapuche Jewelry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weaving: The first evidence of Mapuche textiles dates all the way back to 1300 AD. For centuries, Mapuche women have been using handmade looms to weave blankets, ponchos and more, all with signature bright colors and patterns. The knowledge of spinning and weaving is passed down from grandmothers, mothers and aunts to daughters, nieces and sisters. Their products have been used for trade for centuries, so women who possess these skills have always been highly distinguished in Mapuche culture.

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Today, women in our SKIMFI program are using these traditional weaving techniques to create blankets for sale.

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Traditional ceremonies: Mapuche religious life includes many ceremonies and rituals for different occasions. Central to many of these is the machi, a shaman-like woman who guides the Mapuche through rites for everything from warding off evil to praying for good harvest. They are also thought to have healing powers.

One of our SKILLS artists, a painter, creates work depicting traditional Mapuche ceremonies and rituals.

This painting depicts a machi. In the artist’s words: “She is a Mapuche woman, in charge of religious ceremonies and curing the sick.She is also an herbalist, using natural plants that she finds in Chile. She is in charge of communicating what Mother Earth asks the people to do. The tree behind her is a sacred tree for the Mapuche people. It is our protector.”

Machi: Mujer Mapuche

Another painting depicts a kultrún, an instrument used in ceremonies. The artist says: “It is a sacred instrument with a single and dull sound. It is used by women in religious ceremonies to appease the earth for the Mapuche people.”

Cultrun

How Women-Run Business Are Boosting My Community

For communities to develop and flourish, they need to engage determined women to run businesses. Businesses run by women are community-oriented in nature and don’t just benefit the business-owner and customers, but the whole community. Right now, there are many successful businesses led by women in my community in Zimbabwe, and their achievements benefit everyone.  

Businesswomen in my community are doing tremendous work. Some of them have embraced the beekeeping business. Bees are playing a crucial role in my community—the pollination process is essential for plants and crops, and hence, humans! We are benefitting from healthy raw honey and other products like candles and cosmetics.

9581483787_005712a774_oOther women are doing poultry keeping. This is providing the community with eggs, meat, feathers and manure. These women are encouraging people to raise poultry not for business alone but for agricultural and survival purposes. Poultry helps fertilize gardens and crops and eliminate pests.

Another businesswoman-led project that is bringing people in my community together is knitting and crocheting. During weekends people gather in groups exchanging patterns thereby creating a spirit of ubuntu (oneness). 

Having successful women in our community motivates others to pursue their dreams and give back to their neighbors. Their stories have become models for our own accomplishments—they prove that we must be determined to achieve our goals despite the challenges we face.

Blogger Precious Ngwayarudza grew up in Chipinge, Zimbabwe and studied Psychology at Africa University. In 2015 she conducted a qualitative research: An exploration of the circumstances that led to elderly destitution and institutionalization at Zororai Old Peoples’ Home. She is a humanitarian who has volunteered her services to various vulnerable groups. Since 2012, she is volunteering at Zororai Old Peoples’ home by offering emotional support to the destitute elderly who stay there. She also volunteered at Mutare Farm prison in 2013 where she was involved in the rehabilitation and reconciliation of the incarcerated. In addition, she undertook an internship at Simukai Child Protection Centre where she offered psychosocial support to street children.

Bend the Tree While It’s Still Young

When many people think of scholarships, they imagine older students who’ve already proven themselves to be academically inclined. So we’re often asked why our SKIPGO program targets three to five year old girls. We’ve written about why we’ve chosen to give early-stage scholarships before—but we can’t reiterate enough why it’s important to “bend the tree while it’s still young.”

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One of our SKIPGO scholars

The answer comes down to impact, and our desire to make the biggest, most lasting difference on both the students we’re helping to educate and the communities around them. Elizabeth Mateko, who manages our SKIPGO program in Zimbabwe, explains this tree metaphor: “Until they’re about seven years of age, children receive what is imparted on them. It’s the age when children get their foundation. As a tree grows it starts with roots. These roots form the strength or weakness of the tree. As the tree grows it get its food from the roots. Therefore as the child grows she gets her character from early childhood teachings.”

Research shows that it’s true that educating children at a young age has the most impact on their lives. Report after report—like the famous 1988 Perry Preschool Program study—demonstrate that students who partake in early childhood education tend to have greater success in future educational endeavors, early more money and commit fewer crimes. And perhaps even more importantly, as demonstrated by a 1990 study about Head Start programs along with other research, early-childhood education is shown to give students the social skills that will serve them all throughout their lives.

Our teachers on the ground in Zimbabwe also have ideas about why early childhood education is so important: “We impact students at an early age to prepare them for formal learning,” says Mrs. Chigumira, a teacher at Manicaland School where our scholar Stacey goes to school. “The children master basic skills and develop fine and gross motor skills. Children learn critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

Candice, first grade

Candice, who is now in second grade

Elizabeth adds: “Elementary education instills the importance of education in a child. It makes it easier for the student in more advanced learning. They will be able to make wise decisions in the future.”

Part of early childhood education’s impact comes down to pure common sense. The younger a student is when they begin their education, the less catching up they have to do later on. This concept is also backed by research: In James Heckman’s 2006 Science article, he shows how attempts to make up for educational deficits grow more expensive and less effective as a person grows older. As Elizabeth puts it: “Early childhood teachings hold longer than teaching at an older age. Hence the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. One has to catch them young.”

It also benefits communities at large to educate children at an early age. Heckman’s research shows that investing in early childhood education produces up to a 10% return by reducing costs like remedial education, health and criminal justice expenses.

Ultimately, the younger students are when they begin their education, the longer time they have to make use of that education and continue learning, growing, and contributing to society.

 

7 Ways We Can Promote Women’s Education In Our Everyday Lives

Education is the most powerful weapon a woman can have. But in communities that don’t value women’s education, how do we provide them with the tools and knowledge they need? There are many ways of enlightening women about their worth in the community.

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  • Starting business projects.

Education starts with small initiatives. There are many hard working business women who are just waiting to discover their gift of building a successful business. A microloan is the only thing they need to invest in an income generating business like fish farming, bee keeping and poultry farming. These microloans help women to gain financial independence.

 

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  • Doing vocational training.

A useful skill is often enough for a woman to start a career. Teaching women skills like dress making, catering, housekeeping, bookkeeping and horticulture can lead women into productive work. 

 

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  • 10273825683_dede6b44cd_oIntroducing job opportunities.

There is a great need for communities to promote secure labor markets for women. Women have limited access to job opportunities which in turn puts them on the disadvantage.

 

 

 

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  • Promoting the importance of education.

The moment women are given the chance to get an education their aspirations rise. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 9584458850_ceba5f01e1_oInforming them about their rights.

Knowing their rights is also a prerequisite for advancing development and reducing poverty.  

 

 

 

  • 29680273255_47026950a3_oBeing a role model figure

Being a role model to younger women is another way of educating them passively. Be confident and show them that they too can be an influential woman.

 

 

 

 

 

  • 10273823663_3bde1d061e_oEducating men.

Men need to be educated about women’s rights issue just as much as women do. It’s important to have allies in men, but it’s also vital because when women become aware of their rights at a faster pace than men, social problems can arise.

 

 

Blogger Precious Ngwayarudza grew up in Chipinge, Zimbabwe and studied Psychology at Africa University. In 2015 she conducted a qualitative research: An exploration of the circumstances that led to elderly destitution and institutionalization at Zororai Old Peoples’ Home. She is a humanitarian who has volunteered her services to various vulnerable groups. Since 2012, she is volunteering at Zororai Old Peoples’ home by offering emotional support to the destitute elderly who stay there. She also volunteered at Mutare Farm prison in 2013 where she was involved in the rehabilitation and reconciliation of the incarcerated. In addition, she undertook an internship at Simukai Child Protection Centre where she offered psychosocial support to street children.

Staff Portrait: Meet Victoria, SKImfi Zimbabwe Communications Intern

IMG_2136SKIC’s Zimbabwe-based communications intern, Victoria, on what her role is like:

What is your role at SKImfi?

I am a communications/operations intern at SKImfi and I assist with keeping the records of the beneficiaries, ensuring that they comply with SKImfi rules and regulations, and compiling reports on the progress of their projects.

What does a day look like when you go out to meet with beneficiaries?

When we go out to meet with beneficiaries, the day is exciting. I like visiting women from different places. It gives me the opportunity to see life in a different way by spending time with new people in a new environment and hearing about their life stories and projects.  

I was quite impressed by one of the groups we visited in Mutare. They mainly focused on buying and selling bales of second hand clothes. When they first joined SKImfi, their projects did not go so well. They had bought a bale of blouses only to find out the blouses were off-season. We were approaching winter, so people were buying warm clothes. What I liked about these ladies is they did not sit on their project—they actually went to some of the rural areas in Mutare and they traded their blouses with mealies and nuts. The next time they went to Mozambique, they bought a bale of kids’ jerseys and they made a profit of 60%. I liked that these ladies are hard-working and open-minded.

How have you seen beneficiaries benefit and grow from SKImfi?

The loans that beneficiaries have received from SKImfi have helped them to start something. For example, those who rear chickens and sell them have made a lot of profit. They buy 25 chicks for $18 and rear them for 5 weeks. They then sell the chickens for $7 each. 

What do you find to be the most meaningful part of your job?

Visiting the beneficiaries to monitor their projects. It gives me a chance to understand some of their challenges and help them with ideas on how to approach their problems.

Why do you think it’s important to empower women and girls?

Women’s empowerment is important because it leads to development of society as well as the economy. It also reduces poverty: sometimes the money earned by the male member of the society is insufficient to meet the demands of the family, and the added earnings of the women helps the family come out of poverty.

7 Sexist Comments I Hear—And What I Say in Return

WP_20150425_047Precious Ngwayarudza, a native of Zimbabwe, shares some of the comments she’s heard as single woman pursuing education—and her strategies for combatting casual sexism:

Why are you obtaining a Masters degree? Don’t you know that you will never secure a job in Zimbabwe?

Learning is my passion. As long as I have the funding to continue educating myself, nothing will stop me, and I’m confident that I will secure a job that is good for me.

 

If you continue learning, no man will be bold enough to marry you.

I don’t aspire to be married to a coward. I will marry a man who suits my educational status and demands.

 

Education is for men, not women. Do you think you’ll even use your education once you’re married?

I’m pursuing education so that I can have a better understanding of the world. Even if I choose not to have a career, my education will still serve me; the best thing about being educated is being able to view the world in a new way.

 

Why are you wasting your time and money on learning? When you marry, you’ll be taken care of by your husband and you will be confined to the kitchen.

I want to be my husband’s equal, not a burden and responsibility.

 

You aren’t going to have time to spend with your children, you’ll be too busy.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I will make time for both my career and family.

 

Haven’t you noticed that everyone your age is already married?

I’m too busy to be concerned about something like that.

 

Precious Ngwayarudza grew up in Chipinge, Zimbabwe and studied Psychology at Africa University. In 2015 she conducted a qualitative research: An exploration of the circumstances that led to elderly destitution and institutionalization at Zororai Old Peoples’ Home. She is a humanitarian who has volunteered her services to various vulnerable groups. Since 2012, she is volunteering at Zororai Old Peoples’ home by offering emotional support to the destitute elderly who stay there. She also volunteered at Mutare Farm prison in 2013 where she was involved in the rehabilitation and reconciliation of the incarcerated. In addition, she undertook an internship at Simukai Child Protection Centre where she offered psychosocial support to street children.

 

What Women’s Empowerment Means to Me

Growing up, I was the firstborn girl in a family of five children and a victim of a patriarchal society in Zimbabwe. But I had to set a precedent. I vividly recall taking up menial jobs in the neighborhood to supplement my school fees—my father’s risky job and meager salary were not sufficient for our needs. Even still, I dreamed to acquire an education.

To me, empowerment means the ability to make decisions and influence, to have a strong self-perception, to have personal freedom, to have access to and control over resources and support from social networks. I have discovered that one of the greatest challenges to achieving empowerment is that most people still live with the mentality that certain tasks are better handled by men. It is rare to come across a female electrician, mechanic, bus driver, politician or engineer in Zimbabwe. People often assume that women are generally incompetent in certain fields of life. For example, when I wanted to volunteer my services to the incarcerated in my community, it took me a long time to get permission to work at a local prison since the government believe that women are too weak to work with prison inmates.

The only solution to this challenge is to be resistant towards criticism. Women must stop seeing their gender as a weakness. They must see it as strength, and prove themselves by striving to outperform their male opponents. They must be prepared to break through limiting traditions, and stick to what they believe in.

The other challenge women in Zimbabwe face is that of balancing work and family. Women lay the building blocks on which the family foundation is built. So working women usually find themselves torn between commitment to the family and their work. The best way to overcome this barrier is time management and delegation.

Women have a willingness to listen, patience to understand, strength to support and heart to care even though they have limited access to achieve what they want. Women must always know that gender, age, race, religion or personal beliefs are not criteria for success. What is important is to have a good plan and be determined to succeed, even in the face of failure. Women can change the world. Whenever the going gets tough, they must always feel inspired by T.D Jakes quote, “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion, for passion will lead you into your purpose.”

33253486031_fbedd522d7_oBlogger Precious Ngwayarudza grew up in Chipinge, Zimbabwe and studied Psychology at Africa University. In 2015 she conducted a qualitative research: An exploration of the circumstances that led to elderly destitution and institutionalization at Zororai Old Peoples’ Home. She is a humanitarian who has volunteered her services to various vulnerable groups. Since 2012, she is volunteering at Zororai Old Peoples’ home by offering emotional support to the destitute elderly who stay there. She also volunteered at Mutare Farm prison in 2013 where she was involved in the rehabilitation and reconciliation of the incarcerated. In addition, she undertook an internship at Simukai Child Protection Centre where she offered psychosocial support to the street children.

Celebrating Ancestry and Craftsmanship in Lebu and Beyond

Local-made blankets in Lebu, Chile. Lebu is home to SKILLS, a branch of SKI Charities that celebrates local craftsmanship and artistry.

Lebu isn’t the only town that boasts local, indigenous talent in Chile – Chile’s northernmost region, Arica y Parinacota, is home to a large indigenous population that has long maintained the tradition of craftsmanship. It hasn’t been without hardship, though, to celebrate this idea of community-oriented building and craft. These small towns in Chile, rural as they may be, are not immune to the ways of the modern world. In his article highlighting the resurgence of Chile’s traditional artisans, Jonathan Foyle notes, “The modern world’s emphasis on individual careers tends to deskill rural communities, which in turn threatens the survival of the rural-built environment.”

Fortunately, local organization Fundación Altiplano enables community members to learn traditional building and restoration skills that are unique to indigenous regional cultures. Thus far, Fundación Altiplano “has funded 32 conservation projects, supported artisanal craft production and hosted a film festival about this area.”

The community has rejoiced at the opportunity to preserve their heritage and exercise new skills. Not only are people provided with employment options, but they are also instilled with a sense of pride, responsibility, self-empowerment, and a deeper connection to one another and the history of their ancestors.

Raimundo Choque, a villager in the Arica y Parinacota region was struck by Fundación Altiplano’s mission and liked the idea of beginning a career in conservation as a way to remain connected to his culture – and to keep his culture alive. Choque and his community members had the opportunity to be “reborn as artists.”

Among the restoration projects sponsored by Fundación Altiplano are the rehabilitation of churches, which reinforces the cultural and spiritual connection of craftsmanship with the people. Choque comments, “The work in the church is not only a material job, but also a spiritual job. Our villages are depopulating, so a way to captivate people is to make them feel how families were before.”

SKI Charities aims to do similar work in the indigenous Lebu commmunity – encouraging local craft and entrepreneurship is a way of encouraging self-empowerment and responsibility. Much of the craft in Lebu (painting, weaving, leatherwork, etc) stems from skills that are passed down generationally. Keeping these skills alive, celebrating them, is what SKIC aims for in its SKILLS program. The SKI Local Life Survey helps to empower artists to share their histories and craftsmanship with a broader global community. For more about SKILLS and to purchase art that has been born out of this initiative, click here.

The quotes in this article are excerpted from “High Plains Grafters: Chiles Traditional Artisans” by Jonathan Foyer. It was published in the Financial Times on March 23, 2017.

3 SKIPGO Parents on How Education is Transforming Their Daughters

In Mutare, Zimbabwe, our SKIPGO program is providing motivated, promising young girls with the education they deserve. But how do we identify girls who will benefit most from a quality education at such a young age? One way is by finding families who are as equally committed to education as we are. We asked three SKIPGO parents how they’ve seen their daughters grow since they began the program, and where they hope to see their daughters in the future:

 

What SKIPGO has done for their daughters:

Candice, first grade

Candice, who is now in first grade.

“She has improved in many ways. We can now have a good English conversation, she can do puzzles, her eating habits have changed and she now knows she has to brush her teeth every morning.”— Candice’s father, Trymore

“The SKIPGO program is more than a brilliant idea. My daughter has developed psychological, mentally and physically within a very short period of time. It was such a good foundation for her and she is promising to be a star, I tell you.”— Stacey’s mother, Rita

“Tinevimbo has really changed since she joined the SKIPGO program. Her language development has improved greatly and she conducts well with her peers.”— Tinevimbo’s mom, Samantha

Where they see their daughters in the future:

“Good education is what l dream for her. I can imagine my girl at one of the best secondary schools doing her best. I think providing a good education for my daughter is the best help SKIC can give to achieve this future.”— Candice’s dad, Trymore

Stacey D

Stacey

“I have always had big dreams for my daughter but I was afraid I could never achieve it due to my limited resources. But now I’m foreseeing my dreams coming true. Equipping my daughter with the best possible education ever was always my dream. I foresee a brilliant, confident, intelligent girl excelling in her studies, showing that girls can achieve even more than boys when fully supported and given all the necessary resources.”— Stacey’s mom, Rita

“The dreams that I have for her are that she may be able to complete her studies till university level and be able to give back to the program—for instance by assisting other kids.”— Tinevimbo’s mom, Samantha

Tinevimbo

Tinevimbo

Why it’s essential to educate girls:

“SKIC is financially aiding my daughter in all her educational requirements, which was going to be very difficult for me considering that our society looks down on girls. I happen to be a mother of two girls and culturally our African husbands will be reluctant to support girls as much as they would if it was a boy. When you educate a woman, you have educated the world because generally women are responsible and can easily pass what they have learned to the world.”— Stacey’s mom, Rita

“Women play a big role in the society, though they do not get enough chances as compared to men. Women give back their achievements to society.”— Tinevimbo’s mom, Samantha

Meet AWA, an Inspiring Female Force Coming out of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean female rapper, AWA (source: BBC Newsbeat "Meet AWA, the Zimbabwean using hip-hop to improve human rights in her country")

Zimbabwean rapper, AWA. Photo via BBC.

One of the biggest reasons that SKIC put down roots in Zimbabwe is because female disenfranchisement is rampant and the availability of micro-finance loans does not meet the demand. The marginalization that women in Zimbabwe face is not often talked about – both within the country itself and on a more global scale.

Meet AWA, a female rapper who is attempting to shed light on the types of prejudices and gender-based violence that many women in Zimbabwe face. She is one of very few women who are using music as a platform for raising awareness about the issues that permeate Zimbabwean culture on a daily basis. Her name, an acronym standing for African Women Arise, was chosen to convey her passion for women’s rights advocacy.

SKIC hopes that women and young girls who are utilizing our programs (both SKImfi micro-finance loans and SKIpgo scholarship education programs) gain the self-confidence that comes from employment and education to combat some of the gender discrimination that is embedded in Zimbabwean culture. Fortunately, with the emergence of AWA, Zimbabwean women are beginning to have role models that they can turn to and glean inspiration from when it comes to breaking down some of the barriers that exist for women in historically gender-biased communities.

For more about AWA, click here.

To hear AWA’s music and see her in action, click here.