This month’s magazine features Paola Caille Caille, one of the women in Bolivia with whom we collaborate. The Bolivian women hand-knit beautiful products for us, and their knitting makes it possible for them to support themselves and their families.
Paola Caille Caille lives in La Paz, Bolivia with her daughter and grandchild. Paola is self-employed and runs her own little business heading a large knitting group which includes family members, neighbours and friends. The knitting group consists of 20 women, and Paola’s work involves teaching the women, coordinating their work and assigning them knitting tasks. The women are paid for each item they knit. This means that their salary varies depending on how many orders they complete.
There are several different knitting groups, all with different skills. This could be making baby clothes, sweaters or crocheted clothing. All the women need to be able to do a bit of everything, and learning new techniques is important. Paola also teaches the female heads of other knitting groups which in turn allows the women to teach and share their knowledge with the members of their own groups.
"It is my dream to hire more women and help them to improve their standard of living and their lives.”
Paola is very ambitious and proud of the work that she and the other women in the knitting group do. Bolivian women are hard-working, independent and possess natural leadership skills. There has always been a tradition for selling craft products in Bolivia, but people have not been able to make a living from this alone. Therefore, women in rural areas often supported themselves by farming the land and doing other practical work. The family structure in Bolivia is very traditional with the man being the head of the family. It is only in recent years that women have begun moving to the cities and becoming self-employed. The income of these women is primarily spent on their children. Pensions are not large enough for the women to live on, and therefore they have to work as long as they are able.
Our products are made from 100% alpaca wool from Bolivia. Alpaca wool is part of the Bolivian DNA and has for many years served as a source of income for the country. Working with wool and exporting it to other parts of the world is viewed as an obligation.
The assortment of alpaca wool and the available colours vary. Our product types therefore depend on what is already in stock. The wool is processed, dried and spun into yarn in spinning mills. The yarns are then delivered to the office in La Paz. The office is run by GAI+LISVA’s collaboration partner, Alpaca Export. The women visit the office once a week to find out which orders need to be produced. They then take the yarn back to their knitting groups along with the delivery date for the finished products. Once the women have finished making the products they hand in their work for quality control. The quality control department checks each product for any flaws and then takes care of the finishing touches such as washing and ironing the clothes, attaching the care labels, etc. The women write their names on hang tags so it's possible to see who knitted each individual product. We have recently donated funds to the Bolivian women to pay for a new knitting course that will allow them to develop their skills. We look forward to telling you more about this.
GAI+LISVA’s collaboration with Bolivia
The office in La Paz is run by Alpaca Export, a company specialising in the export of craft products from Bolivia. Alpaca Export gives local artisans a chance to sell their craft products on foreign markets. In Denmark, GAI+LISVA collaborates with Chola, a company based in the town of Ry. Mia, owner of Chola and co-founder of Alpaca Export, has previously lived in Bolivia. Today, Chola imports craft products to Europe from Bolivia and other countries and thus serves as a distributor. Mia has a long-standing and personal relationship with many of the women, and she travels to Bolivia once a year to visit them. It is through Chola that GAI+LISVA imports hand-knit items from Bolivia.
On a final note, we share this message from Paola: “Dear GAI+LISVA, we would be so happy to receive more orders from you so more women can find work. It is my dream to hire more women and help them to improve their standard of living and their lives.”
See GAI+LISVAs beautiful collection of hand-knit products from Bolivia here.