Where does Gracia stand on sustainability?
On balance, we think we’re doing pretty well. Our jewelry-making, social enterprise, Milagros:
- returns its scrap silver for meltdown and recycling.
- uses vegetable tanned leather because it has zero negative impact on the environment.
- prints its tags and cards on recycled cardboard.
- up-cycles skirts, bought directly from the Maya at market, and turns them into jewelry bags for packaging.
Each of these reduces the amount of waste heading for the overflowing landfills on our planet.
But is this enough? The United Nations thinks we can do better.
The UN has drafted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). The SDG’s are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, by addressing poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.
SDG Number One?
No Poverty: Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs
Gracia is committed to meeting the UN’s charge.
The Gracia Entrepreneur Training program (GET) pays Las Mujeres Fuertes* a salaried, living wage while employed in the Milagros Workroom. Additionally, the technical skills of jewelry production and basic business skills, like shipping and inventory maintenance, are put into practice in the Workroom. Women with elevated business skills, like Las Mujeres, are unique in Guatemala and will likely have greater opportunity for employment throughout their lives.
Providing sustainable jobs? Done.
And promoting equality? Doesn’t a paying job promote equality? Not necessarily.
Many programs designed to empower marginalized women rely on technical skills, financial literacy, and paying a living wage. All important, no doubt. They believe this will bring equality. Gracia used to believe this, too. We were wrong.
Poverty is so much more than a lack of resources. Growing up in poverty means feeling disrespected, powerless, and inadequate. Social constructs and hierarchy leave the indigent feeling un-valued, inferior, and isolated. Anything but equal. (Gupta, p.2,3)
The Mujeres Fuertes Cohort of the GET program considers the whole girl, her self-image, her history, and her background. The Cohort uses role-play, group discussion, and individual mentoring to develop the essential skills that help erode the impact of multi-generational poverty. Sometimes referred to as “soft skills”, these skills enable one to interact effectively/harmoniously with others.(Lexico, 2020)
Gracia believes the essential skills are critical for creating sustainable jobs and promoting equality.
And, so does the World Bank.
Their research shows the five essential skills with the strongest evidence for continuing workforce success are: social skills, higher order thinking skills, self-control, positive self-concept, and communication skills. (Gates p.11)
As Gracia watches Las Mujeres integrate essential skills into to their daily routines, we know our approach is working. How? When Las Mujeres welcome visitors and buyers into the Milagros Workroom, they practice their social skills. When Las Mujeres negotiate prices in the market, they demonstrate higher order thinking skills. When a problem arises in the Workroom, and Las Mujeres work together to solve it, their self-control and ability to communicate is revealed. And, when Las Mujeres reject a low-ball offer for their handmade jewelry, positive self-concepts are revealed.
And promoting equality, do the essential skills help with that? UNICEF believes they do.
According to UNICEF’s research, programs that help girls develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, build their sense of self-worth and agency,as well as teaching them confident, constructive communication techniques, are gender transformative. (UNICEF, 2020, p. 1) Gender-transformative programs move beyond individual self-improvement to remove the structures that reinforce gendered inequalities; they are a root-level, systemic approach. As Las Mujeres develop their essential skills, they begin to realize their value, and the perspectives of their families follow. The structures of their communities begin to shift. And they take the first steps toward equality.
SDG #1: No Poverty: Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality. Challenge met.
While Gracia can’t claim to eradicate poverty entirely, we are proud of our progress with a group of young women in rural Guatemala who simply need an opportunity to succeed.
*Gracia refers to the young women in its program as, “Las Mujeres Fuertes” – The Strong
If you would like to help Gracia grow its program and help more young women become Mujeres Fuertes, please click on the donate button below.