Coaching and Assistance for Sustainable Entrepreneurship (CASE), an artisan development project in Chiapas, Mexico (2016-18) led by CL-ATA and funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, was completed on April 30, 2018. It assisted 350 Mayan women artisans and their families. Building on a previous project, CASE aimed to strengthen family economic security, human development and quality of life for the Mayans. CASE’s approach was grassroots and person-to-person and drew artisans from the poor communities of rural Pantelhó, Aldama, Tenejapa, Chenalhó, Mitontic, Sitalá, San Juan Cancuc. The aim of the project was to provide livelihoods to artisans and help them become financially independent and sustainable.

ATA led workshops in design and color training to develop new products. “Training makes a difference in design and commercialization. The chance to experiment and make ideas a reality makes a good artisan, a different one,” says Guillermo Macias, a former ATA project manager, who is now a local business leader.

Gender-based training enhanced the human impact of CASE. Adela Bonilla Vidal, a local Gender Specialist, organized gender focus groups. Men were encouraged to attend to improve their understanding of the new roles their wives were taking on. “We designed this initiative in a holistic manner, by making gender-based awareness and examination of cultural restraints an integral part of artisan development, said Monika Steinberger, ATA’s Director of Projects and New Business Development.

As a result of CASE, women have greater say in family finances. Some are the family’s primary provider thanks to the income they receive from their crafts. Says an artisan from Pantelhó, “… before, my husband would not let me leave [meaning attend markets] but now he does, because he sees that I earn money and that is why he lets me come to the workshops” [taught by ATA]. “Yes, my financial contribution to the home has made a difference and I am included in family decisions” (artisan from Aldama).

Successful workshops and training led to the birth of an independent enterprise “Kip Tik” (meaning “our strength” in Mayan dialect). As ATA Mexico partner, Kip Tik serves as key marketing link for the artisans of Chiapas and US buyers providing continued support for income generation to the artisans. In 2017, they were able to generate USD $200,000 in sales.

“As an independent organization, we are keeping our original mission: increase artisan income and improve the lives of the people we are working with; we continue to develop as a sustainable commercial platform, making possible a better life for the artisans and the people that work in Kip Tik”, says Guillermo Macias founder of Kip Tik.

“Having continuous work has helped us to be more secure and invest in the family, especially my children. It gives me peace of mind that we can continue selling our products to more people. Pedro, my husband is now more aware of the work needed at home and helps me with the children when I have to work on my orders, because this is helping us all”, says Delfina Aguilar Hernandez, Aguacatenando, Venustiano Carranza “In my opinion, the greatest achievements of CASE – in addition to those mentioned by the artisans – are the consolidation of ATA’s work in Mexico’s poorest municipalities and recognition by civil society and international organizations. Artisans consider craftsmanship a viable source of income and an excellent career for young people. The artisans see a future with more possibilities, says María Eugenia Pineda Meléndez, CL-ATA Mexico Country Director.