Follow the Leader

“A leader is a person capable of always giving a little more in everything they do in helping and contributing to the well-being of the group and the community. A leader tries to be as humane as possible to resolve conflicts. A leader must be a responsible, honest and sincere person. A leader accepts constructive criticism, and changes for the benefit of herself and others.”
Nicolas Barán, Multicolores Artist and Leader

At the end of Rug Money, our book about the journey of the rug-hooking nonprofit group Multicolores, Mary Anne Wise writes about the vision of a future leadership program:
“Nine artists from five communities were invited to participate in the program. Reyna and Cheryl identified these women according to their skills, motivation, and leadership abilities. The team believes this group of nine will, over the course of three years, learn to strengthen their natural leadership abilities and become agents of change in their homes, rug-hooking groups, and communities. The approach will be holistic, recognizing that to be a good leader you have to be self-aware along with having good organizational and technical skills. The leaders will become ambassadors, able to confidently represent Multicolores at national and international markets and events. Having learned English and public speaking skills, the leaders will be able to speak about Multicolores’ vision and mission, drawing upon their own personal experiences.”

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Leadership group: Back row (l to r): Tomasa Cumez, Irma Churunel, Carmen Maldonado, Nicolasa Baran, Yolanda Churunel. Front row (l to r): Hilda Tzunun, Glendy Muj, Rosmery Pacheco and Maria Ignacia Jocol Photo courtesy of Multicolores

Co-author and Director of Development Cheryl Conway-Daly recently shared some updates about the program after the completion of the second year, and wow. It’s so heartening to see the positive impact this Leadership Program is having on the same rug-hooking artists we met in Rug Money and to see them continue to change their lives. Cheryl writes: “Throughout the second year of the program our activities have focused on developing competencies in the following areas: taking-action, finding my voice, group strengthening, and technical knowledge.”

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Nicolasa Barán (in front) greeting the North American participants in the 2019 Rug Hooking Tour. Photo courtesy of Multicolores.

Through workshops and involvement with community leaders, judges, artists, dancers, and psychologists, the women continue to grow in voice and confidence. They have evaluated and participated in local and national political elections; they have attended classes on conflict resolution through negotiation, reconciliation, mediation; they have learned about human rights violations–and how and where to file a complaint; they have been informed about discrimination and violence against women through participating in workshops; they have practiced expressing their ideas and opinions in public through artistic expression, learning English, public speaking, and political involvement; they have improved their technical skills through learning more about fair trade, how better to market their work, color trends, and seasonal influences; and they have worked collaboratively with each other to develop future visions for each of their rug-hooking communities.

Artists researching information about Fair Trade organizations. Carmen, working at the computer, had never made a mark on paper when she attended her first rug-hooking design class ten years ago. Photo courtesy of Multicolores.

The work of a leader is not easy. Cheryl writes: “In the community of Chuacruz, Yolanda was told that quite simply, women are not permitted to participate in any community forums. In Chirijquaic a neighbor causally mentions to Maria Ignacia, ‘Why do you need to learn about women’s rights, they don’t apply here.’ In a community forum in Patanatic, Nicolasa offers an opinion and a man tells her that it hurts him that this good idea has come from a woman. Discrimination against women in Guatemala persists and it is prevalent within the communities where members of the Multicolores’ Leadership Program live. Undeterred, these brave and remarkable women are finding ways to participate and be heard.”  

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A hooked rug by Multicolores artist Yolanda Calgua

I’ll be following along this next year, watching these amazing women create beauty in their lives equal to the beauty of their art.

—Karen

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Learn more about Multicolores, the artists’ stories, and the revolutionary Leadership Program in Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation.

One thought on “Follow the Leader

  1. Pamela Marble says:

    Wow, it’s inspiring to witness these women soar beyond such cultural constraints.
    After reading Nicolas Barán’s description of a leader, I can only hope that the next US president will be able to match it!

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