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The Power of Women's Artisanship


Recent studies have shown the transformative power of artisanship: handicrafts provide a space of multicultural recognition, represent memorialization for second and third generation migrants, hold potential for trauma expression, and a vessel to communicate a unified message that we are all part of one human family – all this while creating a platform for women to sustain themselves economically. This program describes how Women Forward International (WFI), a nonprofit that partners graduate students with organizations to make their research of service to humanity applicable today, is making the economic empowerment of artisan women possible.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Rural South and Southeast Mexico

Pro Mujer and Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)

Countless studies have shown that gender equality is smart economics. The untapped potential of women remains a lost opportunity for economic growth and development that Afghanistan cannot afford. Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise development at the micro, small, and medium enterprise levels, as well as enhances business management and returns on investment.

In addition to boosting economic growth, investing in women produces a multiplier effect – women reinvest a large portion of their income in their families and communities. Women also play key roles in creating peaceful and stable societies –important factors for economic growth. Unfortunately, in places like Afghanistan, these benefits have not been universally recognized and translated into women’s full economic participation. Women still face obstacles when trying to establish new businesses or expand existing ones. Among the biggest hurdles are discriminatory laws, regulations and business conditions, as well as women’s lack of access to property rights, finance, training, technology, markets, mentors, and networks.



In the Southeast of Mexico, the context presents a series of challenges, due to the deep social, economic, educational and equality lags. 60% of the Mexican southeast inhabitants live in poverty conditions. In some states, this figure goes up to 80%, while the national poverty rate is 40%. Regarding gender, the gap in economic participation between men and women is 36.24 points, and only 2.96% of women in the region own their own businesses.

The region obtained the country’s lowest score in the Financial Literacy Index, obtaining 54.9 points in 2018. The numbers are significantly lower when we talk about indigenous and rural populations, and especially, about the women living in these communities.

With the aim to address some of these systemic shortcomings in 2022 we started a expansion to this region to offer Pro Mujer ́s suite of services, starting by Emprende Pro Mujer program to equip women with skills and knowledge to successfully manage and expand their businesses. Due to the characteristics of the region, a large part of the micro-entrepreneurs are from the artisan sector.

Proof of this is that “A large portion of support providers in rural South and Southeast Mexico direct their support to entrepreneurs in the culture sector, which includes tourism, media, and entertainment (67%), and the artisanal sector (49%)” (ANDE, 2020).

Through a study already carried out as the first step for the expansion of Pro Mujer to the southeast, today we have information on the existing entrepreneurial services supply and demand, at a macro level and with a focus on the organizations that provide these services.

However, we have little information on how women entrepreneurs receive information from such services: what are the messages they are seeing or listening to, how do they react to them, what is the social consensus in social networks etc.


To understand what is the information that indigenous or rural artisan-women are accessing by analyzing the conversations and trends that occur in social networks about capacity development services in entrepreneurship and access to credit.

The end-goal is to have a better decision making process around marketing of financials and non-financial products and services, because the difficulty in finding relevant products and services provided by trusted organizations is one of the key barriers in a costumer journey for women entrepreneurs in Southeast Mexico. (Dalberg, 2021)


1. Research piece development: Pro Mujer together with the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), will work in the methodological framework to be able apply what is commonly known as social listening and social understanding tools based on Artificial Intelligence aimed at tracking conversations and mentions related to a given topic on social media platforms, and analyzing them for insights into what actions organizations can take to improve the consumer experience. This will be adapted to the context of Southern Mexico and with a scope in the artisanal sector. Activities include:

  • Defining key criteria to understand the entrepreneurial capacity-development and access to credit services.

  • Defining the scope of the project in terms of time, social networks to analyze and geography.

  • Data gathering and analysis

  • Report writing with key insights and recommendation

2. Research dissemination: Pro Mujer will hold a series of roundtables with kestakeholder in the artisanal sector working in at least 3 states of Southeast Mexico, to share key findings and discuss how to better adapt the communication and marketing process of financial and non-financial services targeting indigenous and/or rural women.We will also create a communication ́s campaign to broadly share the research report.

Artisanal Weaver
Crowded Street
Women in Jewelry Workshop
San Cristobal de las Casas
Sombrero Girls
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