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Handicrafts made by female detainees in Paraguay are a hit at international fair in Brazil

25-04-2012 Feature

A wide range of traditional Paraguayan handicrafts, made by female detainees, were on display at the International Handicrafts Trade Fair in Brasilia. The women are part of a handicrafts project being run by the Paraguayan Red Cross in conjunction with the ICRC.

Throughout the 10-day event, which took place from 13 to 23 April, the Kuña Katupyry (meaning "enterprising woman" in Guaraní) – Artesanas del Buen Pastor stand drew dozens of visitors. Brazilian Marizete Silva Leal purchased several items made by the detainees, attracted by the fact that the products were "distinctive, well made and original." Oscarina Vieira came to the stand with her husband, who went away sporting a beautiful white ao po'i shirt. Oscarina praised the initiative: "You've succeeded in rescuing Paraguayan culture, while also giving these women both employable skills and a creative outlet, fostering their social reintegration."
The project provides the detainees with training to enable them to earn an income, improve their living conditions and acquire a greater sense of dignity. The initiative is also a way of helping these women reintegrate into society. The ICRC and the Paraguayan Red Cross provide material and technical support, run handicrafts courses and organize workshops on management, personal development and cooperative initiatives, among others.

"For us, it was a great experience to show this work in Brazil and give the women a chance to find new markets for their products," explained Miriam Zampatti, deputy head of the ICRC delegation for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. More than 40 detainees spent three months producing over 500 items and working towards a new phase for their initiative – one that will involve large-scale production and wide distribution, and will be economically sustainable.

For the project coordinator Rebeca Gamarra, from the National Red Cross Society, showing their creations at the Fair was important for the women's sense of worth, both as individuals and as craftspeople striving to earn a living and support their families.

In addition to National Society representatives, Rocío Rojas Sosa, from the Paraguayan Institute of Handicrafts, who teaches various techniques to the detainees, was present at the Fair. "The women were excited and had high expectations," she said. She thinks that the Fair was a very positive influence because it gave the women something tangible to work towards, boosting production and offering a real financial return. It also paved the way for new opportunities in the future. "This project is very important for me and my family," said one of the craftswomen.

Products chosen for the Fair included those made using the ñandutí technique, which involves fabric woven from fine cotton or silk thread, needle lace, which is made in square, rectangular or circular pieces, the so-called ao po'i, which is fabric woven from cotton thread, and cross-stitch and crochet items.

Handicrafts project for women detainees in Buen Pastor prison

The capacity-building project set up under the auspices of the Women Detainees' Association is based on the production and sale of handicrafts made by the women in Buen Pastor prison. With the support of the National Professional Promotion Service, the women receive training in dressmaking and crochet, ao po’i, cross-stitch, needle lace and ñandutí techniques.

In addition to these crafts, they learn about administration, accounting, marketing, personal development and other skills, so as to be fully equipped to set up their own businesses when they get out of prison.

Kuña Katupyry (meaning "enterprising woman" in Guaraní) is what they call themselves. They have been working together as an association since 2008, thanks to the impetus of the Paraguayan Red Cross and the ICRC. Some 42 women are currently enrolled in the programme. More than 35 have completed their training over the last four years.
A teacher from the Paraguayan Institute of Handicrafts gives two-hour classes four times a week in Buen Pastor prison, where the women have a room set aside for their work.
The products made by the women during the classes and in their free time in the prison are sold by their relatives and friends. The materials required to manufacture the handicrafts are supplied by the National Society and the ICRC. With the income from the goods sold, the women are able to provide financial support for their families and cover their daily expenses.


Photos

A wide range of traditional Paraguayan handicrafts, made by female detainees, were on display at the International Handicrafts Trade Fair in Brasilia. 

A wide range of traditional Paraguayan handicrafts, made by female detainees, were on display at the International Handicrafts Trade Fair in Brasilia.
© ICRC / P. Araujo

Brazilian Marizete Silva Leal purchased several items made by the detainees, attracted by the fact that the products were  

Brazilian Marizete Silva Leal purchased several items made by the detainees, attracted by the fact that the products were "distinctive, well made and original."
© ICRC / P. Araujo

Camisa de “ao po'i”, tejido confeccionado con hilos de algodón.  

An "ao po'i" shirt, made of fabric woven from cotton thread.
© CICR / L. Vera

Buen Pastor Prison, Paraguay. Nineteen inmates receive certificates in December 2001. 

Buen Pastor Prison, Paraguay. Nineteen inmates receive certificates in December 2001.
© ICRC / L. Vera