Monday, October 27, 2014

Mujeres Emprendadoras: Women Developing Small Businesses

"See you at the fair!"  As we made our way to church early in the morning on Sunday, women from the community made their excuses and made their way to the bus stop.  Church is important, but the opportunity to market themselves and their products took priority.

After worship, we made our way to Tonacatepeque, to the sidewalk in front of the mayor's office.  The fair was small, but the mood was hopeful.  There were not too many people buying things.  We wondered how well the event was promoted to customers.

We wandered from table to table, and we did do a little Christmas shopping - which means our purchases are still top-secret!  I asked if I could take a photo of the woman who sold me a beautifully crocheted item...as a memory for the person who will receive the gift.  This creative business woman also sells natural medicine made from herbs in her garden.

The hand-made items ranged from embroidered cloths and blouses, to knit and crocheted items, to hand-sewn skirts and tops, to beaded jewelry.  Some of the women purchased items such as sandals and hair clips for resale.  Some of the women had brought things from their homes to sell, such as used clothing and toys.  Of course there was food, so we ordered a slice of pizza from the baker.  (Pizza is often sold at bakeries in small towns in El Salvador.)  It was one of the best slices of pizza I have ever eaten!  Since the pizza was so delicious, we decided to buy small loaves of orange bread and banana bread from the same baker.  We were not disappointed!
We were excited to see our friends from the Unidad de Salud (health clinic) participating in the fair.  They were ready to take blood pressures and give vaccines.  It was also a great opportunity to hold up the professions of female healthcare workers in the community.


Each of the entrepreneurs had a turn speaking into a microphone.  Their voices echoed from gigantic speakers across the town square, inviting people to come and see what the women have learned and what they were selling.  We applauded for our friends, and then walked across the street to the town's market.  Men and women entrepreneurs have been selling their wares in this market for years.  About 60% of the booths are dedicated to local fruits and vegetables.  The remaining tables feature everything from underwear to plastic plates.  It's not exactly a tourist stop, but we did find a couple of cute things for grandkids (again, top secret), some undies for a little girl who has none, and some mamones de China (lychee fruit).  The market is damp and dark, under black plastic sheeting or corrugated tin roofing.  It is supposedly going to be relocated and remodeled.  Perhaps the new entrepreneurs are thinking about putting their businesses into the market.

We walked back to the mayor's office.  Soon the music started.  Street music in El Salvador is never quiet and this did not disappoint:  super loud karaoke, sung by the local school's music teacher.  He was pretty talented, and a couple of the grandmas started dancing in front of the sales tables.  They were both much less than 5 feet tall, had great smiles and demonstrated some pretty sweet moves!

We enjoyed the music and dancing for a while, and then headed back to our sister church community.  We felt really proud of our sisters' business efforts.  Hopefully the movement to help women create sustainable small businesses will not end with the fair.

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