Preserving Indigenous Culture by Opening Artisanal Market Opportunities for Women and Girl Artisans in Rural Peru

We connect Andean artisan weavers with global markets, and empower women and girls with education and financial independence.

Photo of Anne Marie Toccket
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name


Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $250k - $500k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 100 - 250

Organization type

  • Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Peru

Headquarters location: City

Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Peru

Location(s) of impact

Peru: Patacancha, Huilloc, Kelkanka, Rumira, Ollantaytambo, Puente Inka


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Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

The poorest demographic in Peru is the indigenous Quechua woman. The pressures of modernization, participation in the cash economy, and the economic opportunity offered by leaving remote indigenous village are weighty. As this economic transition occurs, cultural heritage, knowledge, skills and even identity are lost. Families who leave their communities are detached from their cultural identity, and often live in poverty in urban centers where they are discriminated against and underpaid.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

Awamaki partners with indigenous cooperatives of women and girls to make the traditional Quechua way of life prosperous, therefore eliminating the need to migrate to urban centers to find paying work. By partnering with women, we create a leadership and economic model that benefits women, youth, and communities as a whole. Awamaki partners with self-organized, motivated groups of women who seek our model of revitalizing traditional cultural artistry, small business management training, quality improvement techniques and workshops, and opening market opportunities worldwide. Together, we create shared value through artistry, community leadership, indigenous identity, and economic independence. This leads to a burgeoning economic sector of sustainable and fairly trade artisanal goods, and a new role for women as leaders in their traditional communities. The goal of partnership with Awamaki is that each cooperative graduates from our program, becoming a self-managed artisan cooperative.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

As a social enterprise, we accomplish our mission through market-based activities. These social enterprise values make our work highly sustainable and ensure we can reach more cooperatives in the region. But while pure social enterprises strive to offer economic opportunity to artisans, we go beyond that model by teaching skills to incubate and launch powerful, sustainable, women-led businesses. Our model gives poor women opportunity for long-term economic success that is not dependent on any person,NGO, or business.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

Awamaki is fortunate to earn most of its income through earned revenue activities: 1. Sale of artisanal products from partner cooperatives 2. Sustainable tourism program, which offers visits ranging from a half-day weaving lesson to an immersive four-day cloud forest natural dyes experience 3. Spanish Lessons, taught by a cooperative of women launched and trained by Awamaki 4. Volunteerism, where people from around the world come to offer their skills and time 5. Group Service Learning, for college and high school groups worldwide Our income breakdown is as follows: 1. Individual donations: 8% 2. Grants: 8% 3.Earned income: 84%

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Our approach to ending poverty and elevating cultural heritage in rural communities differs from non-profits, since we accomplish our mission through market activities. These social enterprise values make our work highly sustainable and allow us to partner with more cooperatives in the region. But while pure social enterprises may offer economic opportunity, we go beyond that by teaching skills to incubate and launch powerful, sustainable, women-led businesses not dependent on any person or NGO.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

When Kennedy, Awamaki's founder, was 17, she went on a high school trip to Ollantaytambo, where Awamaki is now based. It was the first time she had left the U.S. She recalls vividly the day the group traveled up the valley to the indigenous communities where Awamaki now works, winding up the bumpy road through small tidy fields carved into the valley. The day, with its lunch in a thatched hut, warm welcome and worldclass artisans, made a strong impression on her. She vowed then to one day return to work alongside those women artisans, to elevate not only their craft, but their quality of life. Descending down the mountain, Kennedy closed her eyes and let herself imagine sitting in a circle with the artisans, a day far in the future. Years later, she returned to Ollantaytambo, volunteering with Awamaki's predecessor NGO and then eventually founded Awamaki when that organization failed.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Cintia Jaime

Hi Anne Marie!
Great project! It’s a great idea to empower indigenous communities so that their valuable cultures and knowledge don’t disappear. Creating innovative means for them to make a living by sharing their know-how is great. I love the tourism alternatives that you offer.
I know that there have been many similar initiatives aiming at the same objective, however I do feel that your project has more elements to make it a successful story: linking supply and demand (having a website where people can book tours and buy their products), diversity of products (tourism, language course, and knitted/weaved products), adding the possibility of volunteer to further develop the skills of the local community.
If I have to give ideas to improve this project I would suggest the following:
1. Consider creating an alliance with a tour operator so that the touring opportunities that you offer, can reach a bigger audience.
2. On the same line as above, consider increasing the scope of the tourism activities by combining what you offer with additional organized activities in nearby areas as part of a whole package (one of our team members recently participated in a work volunteer holiday in Sri Lanka, in which one week was 100% volunteer work, and the other week was holiday fully organized by the same organization; visit this link to see the program they had to give you an idea:
3. Try getting volunteers who can help the local women increase the diversity and quality of knitted/weaved products. You have a great opportunity to reach another market by doing this. For example a delicate knitted sweater sells in Lima for more than USD150, so by improving the variety of patters, the quality of the yarn, quality of seams can help your project reach a customer who is willing to pay much more. In addition, the women could learn to produce for example knitted toys of good quality. There are a lot of handcraft products that can be purchased everywhere, but high quality ones that benefit directly the indigenous communities, only a few.
4. Try creating an alliance with local shop(s) in Lima, as alternative option to sell products. In Lima there is a whole movement towards more organic foods, fare trade, etc., so there is a clear opportunity for this, and it will allow you to tap into the market that does not visit the south of Peru (many business people only go to Lima).
You should really feel proud of what you have achieved so far. Keep up the great work!
Warm regards,