The Q'ewar Project

This morning I was browsing the always dependable, Living in Peru, and stumbled across a a story about a small village located about an hour outside of Cucso. The village of Andahuaylillas boasts the Church of San Pedro which is freely called The Sistine Chapel of the Andes. San Pedro is the man tourist attraction in the small village that relies heavily on agriculture. Besides agricultural jobs, work in Andahuaylillas is very sparse, unless one is able to make the arduous commute to Cusco. Roughly nine years ago, two locals saw a need for steady employment for the  women of Andahuaylillas and began what has grown into the Q’ewar Project.

This project creates beautiful, handcrafted Waldorf dolls by employing women to work in various workshops. Each stage of production is done using local, natural materials. All the workshops are working simultaneously to spin or dye cotton, stuff the dolls, knit clothing, make accessories and create hair and facial features. All of the dolls are dressed in clothing typical for the Peruvian highlands and some are given special outfits used primarily for festivals.

After watching a short documentary about the project, I was struck by how the project is about more than a salary. By working in the doll workshop, these women are able to work in a clean, relaxing environment, rather than working a difficult agriculture job that isn’t suited for a woman’s build. The project has also provided a nursery for the women’s children, so they no longer have to worry about caring for their children while working. A school has been established for the village’s poorest inhabitants that includes academic lessons, a warm meal, a hot shower, dental services and music lessons.

Now that these women are able to bring home a substantial salary, they are able to act as equals with their husbands. In a chauvinistic society, it is too often the case that left with no job opportunities, a woman must stay in an abusive relationship. Thanks to the Q’ewar Project, the women in that situation are able to provide for themselves and their children. The founders of the project seek to improve the over all quality of life for the woman working for them, this includes basic needs such as an in house bathroom. In order to make this a reality, at the end of their first year of work, each woman is given a S./500 bonus to be used for the sole purpose of building a bathroom with working toilet and shower. Woman who work for the project have also found a supportive community in which to enjoy companionship and excursions outside of Andahuaylillas.

Currently, 37 women work for the Q’ewar Project and in times of high demand, they bring on ten more women. The next phase for the project hopes to create a ceramic workshop for men to provide a stable work environment, where men will be treated with respect, in order to give the village’s men an escape from alcoholism. The founders estimate that nearly 100 families have directly or indirectly benefited from the project.

I have absolutely fallen in love with these adorable dolls and the beautiful social work of this project.