“I’m thankful that I found Mercado Global and can provide a better life for my family.”
That's what Isabel Chiroy Pixtay said, following a recent, long day at work.
Isabel, pictured above, is the oldest of twelve siblings. She cradled the dream of getting an education, but her parents could not afford to send her to school beyond the sixth grade.
Five years ago, she heard about an organization called Mercado Global that trains and gives work opportunities to indigenous women. Determined to start a new life for her and her siblings, she migrated to the highlands.
With support from the Levi Strauss Foundation, Mercado Global helps women artisans in Guatemala establish cooperatives that provide jobs, business training and incentives to save money for long-term goals. Since 2007, Levi’s® has partnered with Mercado Global to bring hand-crafted scarf, bag and belt collections to consumers across the United States.
We sat down with Isabel to ask her a few questions about the impact Mercado Global is having on indigenous women. Here’s what she had to say:
What do you like about working with Mercado Global?
Isabel: The opportunities I have to grow — not just as a provider for my family, but also as a leader and as a person.
As a member of Mercado Global, what are some of your responsibilities?
Isabel: I’m both an artisan and a community trainer. It wasn’t always this way. When I first started working at Mercado, I took out a loan for an industrial sewing machine, and stayed up nights to learn how to use it. I really liked working with samples, and enjoyed working with the other women, too. That inspired me to organize other colleagues to start our own cooperative.
Can you give us a glimpse into some of your recent products?
Isabel: Last year, we received an order from the Levi Strauss Foundation to make conference bags for the International HIV/AIDS conference. We had to produce 25,000 bags between 79 artisans. In a few months, I taught my group how to work with denim, which is different from the traditional textiles we use. I also oversaw the quality of the final products and taught others how to comply with quality standards. It meant a lot of personal growth for me, and a steady source of income for all of our families.
What did working on this order help you achieve?
Isabel: With the income received through the foundation’s order, I was able to purchase school supplies, pay tuition fees and provide clothing for my six younger siblings. I want them to stay in school and have better opportunities than I did.
Thanks to this job, I improved the quality of my work. As the leader of my cooperative, it gave me more confidence to pursue new opportunities that can improve the lives of my fellow artisans.
Since 2007 Mercado Global has partnered with the Levi Strauss Foundation - providing market access opportunities for female indigenous artisans. The Levi Strauss Foundation was recently recognized with the inaugural Impact Award of the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) and featured on the The Chronicle of Philanthropy. You can read more about this recognition and the groundbreaking approach of the Foundation to promoting social change, here.