As women we never have a break, we are always working. Whereas the men go to work and then come home to relax, women are working from sunrise to sunset. Washing, cooking, collecting firewood, taking care of the children, taking care of the garden, the chickens, preparing the food for tomorrow.
And in between those tasks, the women weave- for their children, for themselves, and to generate income through Yabal’s weaving project. This is what the women shared with us at our last board meeting, their lack of time in the day- And that they’re tired!
The importance of leisure, play, and relaxation isn’t something you hear talked about much in development work. It’s a part of life that most people in the western world strive for, but it’s an unattainable luxury for others. Obviously when you are trying to just feed and educate your children, relaxation is definitely a lower priority, if a priority at all. Unfortunately it’s usually the people that have the least economic resources that work the hardest and also have the least free time. Leisure is such an important part of emotional and physical well-being that all people should be able to enjoy.
In between all the Yabal priorities for social projects in the communities of Pacutama and Chuicutama- creating employment opportunities, educational opportunities, food security programs, health projects- we didn’t think of leisure as important. But after hearing the women talk, we realized how vital it is for all people to have a break, to play and relax. And it shouldn’t matter if you’re poor or rich.
In addition to a lack of down time, most women have never traveled outside of the surrounding nearby communities, to get to know the other parts of Guatemala. Because of this, last year Yabal decided that we would begin taking our weaving cooperative on a trip at least once a year to visit different tourist sites in Guatemala.
Last year, we brought the cooperative to the city of Quetzaltenango to visit the textile museum to learn about the history of Mayan weaving in Guatemala that goes back 5,000 years and to see examples of textile artwork and huipiles from other communities in Guatemala. Followed by a visit to the local zoo.
This year, at their request, we took our cooperative of 40 women weavers to Laguna Chikabal, a sacred lake in the crater of a volcano. It’s a 2 hr hike up and down into the crater of the volcano (which is now mostly forest). The lake is a sacrad Mayan site with mayan altars and offerings of flowers and candles around it’s shores. While it was a long walk, we were all happy for the chance to be on a trip, exploring a new place, and away from the daily duties of our lives.