We aim to provide opportunities for women living in the communities surrounding the Guatemala City Garbage Dump (GCGD). Our goal is to improve their lives through various income-generating and welfare initiatives that foster self-esteem, physical health and financial independence.
These services address the structural factors that contribute to the fear and oppression that the women of the GCGD regularly experience.
In a culture where women are silenced and instilled with fear, Creamos creates a space where women are heard and exercise self-determination through education, solidarity, creativity and leadership opportunities.
To understand why our work is so important, it is crucial to first understand the physical and economic environment, and societal structures within which our members exist.
The Guatemala City Garbage Dump is the largest in Central America, covering over 40 acres. It began in 1953 as a place to dispose of waste from the city and surrounding areas. During the 36 years of civil war, thousands of Guatemalans fled their homes and set up communities on the periphery of the dump to earn a living from materials that could be salvaged, cleaned and re-sold. Today, over 7,000 people work in the dump, risking their lives to earn between $2 - $3 per day. It has been the main income-source of many families in the communities for generations.
Gender inequalities are deeply embedded in Guatemalan culture. During the 36-year civil war, rape and other forms of gender-based violence were systematically used by men as a weapon of terror. These practices became normalized in Guatemalan society, and though the war ended in 1996, they remain prevalent today. Beyond this exists the patriarchal society and high levels of impunity for acts of violence against women. These dynamics create feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability among women. They are made to feel helpless in their families, in their communities and before the law, so that no place is safe.
Creamos was born out of a recognition of all of the challenges that women face in Guatemala as a whole, and particularly in the GCGD communities. Structural factors such as gender inequalities in employment and education in addition to the insecure nature of work at the GCGD and the patriarchal nature of society create a culture of financial dependence and low self-worth, where IPV is a societal norm. An estimated 90% of Creamos members are victims of significant physical, emotional, and economic abuse.
We began as a social entrepreneurship program under Safe Passage in 2008 to provide greater income-generating opportunities and flexible and safe working conditions to enable women in the GCGD to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children. Since then we have grown into an independent non-profit organization, and our work has expanded to address the social and emotional challenges that women in the communities face, on top of their economic needs.
We are working to provide the opportunities for women to create a community where they are afforded the chance to be heard and exercise self-determination through fair and stable employment, education, camaraderie, and leadership opportunities.
"When you purchase one of our products, you're not only getting a unique piece of jewellery. Each piece is a symbol of hope, opportunity, respect and hard-work for not only one of us, but also for our children."
- Irina, Creamos artisan