(Photo taken by Rebecca Benoit at our Ayacucho workshop on our last visit in 2018)
The months leading up to our Autumn launch this year have looked a little different. Over the past five months we have been navigating the impact of the corona virus on our supply chain as the pandemic has swept Peru wrecking havoc. Our Fall/Winter 2020 collection will forever be remembered to us as the collection that proved the perseverance, adaptability and strength of our partners in Peru. We'd like to take the opportunity to update you on the current situation at our knitting workshop and what are partners are doing to support the knitters during this time of crisis.
Ayacucho is a small town in the Peruvian Andes where the fair trade knitting workshop we have partnered with since 2014 is located. One of the poorest regions in Peru, the tiny town has limited resources available in "normal" times and is currently experiencing catastrophe as a result of the corona virus that has swept through the country since early March. Large families live in small, shared spaces throughout the city most with a lack of any technology making working from home not an option. Furthermore, much of the limited work available in Ayacucho puts family members at risk of virus exposure as safety measures and distancing are not in place. One in three women are victim to gender violence daily, which is an increasing concern with the lock down measures in place over the past few months. In the small Andean town, there are very few markets where you can buy groceries. Markets are crammed and packed with people making it impossible to avoid virus spread. Groceries are importing from larger cities such as Lima and Arequipa and with the lack of flights in and out of Ayacucho, the cost of food and other basic necessities has risen substantially.
(Image from the roof of the Ayacucho workshop taken by Rebecca Benoit on our trip in 2018)
(Learn more about the situation from our partners in Ayacucho here)
What are our partners Solid International doing about it?
1. An internal doctor has been hired
An internal, reliable doctor has been hired to work at the workshop. Currently in Ayacucho people are pretending to be doctors to capitalize on the pandemic which is leading to an increase in virus spread and death. The internal doctor will review health and safety protocols and equipment at the workshop on an ongoing basis. They will provide attention and follow up to cases that arise among the 120 knitting moms employed. Hiring an internal doctor will help the women avoid visits to over crowded hospitals by foreseeing primary medications and treatments. There are currently only five ventilators in Ayacucho and very limited oxygen therefore they will investigate the provision of oxygen and acquiring some reserve balloons
2. Mobile phones have been provided to the knitting moms
Why mobile phones? Solid is providing individualized support for each knitter with one one sessions of emotion and stress management techniques via phone and video chat every month. Mobile phones have allowed more women to work from home while staying connected to the workshop to review quality control and keep the production schedule on time. Phones also allow the women to stay connected to one another while in quarantine to maintain their sense of community they no longer have without working at the workshop.
3. Moving production from the workshop into homes.
One of the key benefits of using manual looms and traditional hand knit production techniques is has provided the women at the workshop the flexibility to work remotely during quarantine and lock downs while continuing to earn an income. To maintain social distancing at the workshop many of the women are working from home. Working from home also allows the women to care for their children while they are home schooled.
(Photo of Olga, an artisan employed at the workshop working at home on her manual loom. Photo taken by Rebecca Benoit on our last visit to Peru in 2018)
4. Food and basic commodities are being distributed to knitters weekly
Many of the women working at the workshop in Ayacucho live on the outskirts of the city. Avoiding travel to and from the crowded markets during this time is crucial for their safety.
The next steps are hard to predict and an economic recovery is not on the horizon anytime soon. Although the future of Peru does not look optimistic, we are so grateful for the perseverance of our partners at Solid who managed to keep the knitters employed safely during this challenging period. We will continue to work hard with our partners to provide work to our team. Thank you to our amazing clients and retailers for their ongoing support.