About 80% of the income generated in the community of Sarteneja Village, Belize, comes from the fishing industry. But local coral reefs have been over-fished and this source of income has been declining and unstable for the last 10 years, causing the community to begin to seek other ways of making ends meet. Traditionally, men have been the ones to provide for the households; however, women are now stepping into the responsibility of income generation. Funding for this project will allow a group of women entrepreneurs to start a co-op business sewing products and handicrafts while preserving traditional arts and crafts. Participants will attend classes to learn sewing and handicraft-making skills, and gain entrepreneurial knowledge on operations, accounting and marketing, showcasing products at markets and expos, and earning income through sales, which will be used to support their families and to fund future endeavors for the co-op. The desired outcome of the project is for women to flourish through a cultural trade while gaining economic independence.
The women's group, now officially doing business as "Las Sartenejas", has taken a number of steps toward officially establishing their organization. They have developed organizational incorporation and operating documents, elected a Board of Directors, set up a bank account, and they hold formal weekly meetings and record meeting minutes. A professional graphic designer donated her services and now the group has a brand image for their logo, price tag, business cards, and other marketing materials. The group recently completed their training in embroidery and is now working on training in sewing. In addition, they applied for and received a grant from Full Basket Belize, a non-profit organization founded and run by former Peace Corps Volunteers and other volunteers that supports community organizations with small grants. This grant enabled the group to purchase the early infrastructure of a store and production company - chairs and tables and display cases for market expos as well as the tools to build and develop a website.
Las Sartenejeñas Cooperative was the recipient of World Connect's 2013 Charlotte Daniel "Champions of Change" award, providing the group with a second round of funding to increase the operational capacity of their cooperative. The group, in partnership with the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development will be receiving a $50,000 business development grant from the UNDP’s Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation Programme (COMPACT), which will advance the business and demonstrate World Connect’s ability to leverage significant investments in local ingenuity.
"I think the program was a good opportunity that changed my life because I progressed in many ways, like helping my family and growing as a woman. I liked this project because we shared it as a group and we learned new things from each other. It's a good opportunity for all women to join." - Jamiliet, Project Participant
"The project has changed things because the women have something to call their own and be proud of. And they are." - Jennifer, Peace Corps Volunteer