Amanda Zehner, MA'11, is weaving business with social responsibility
After completing the Sustainable and International Development Program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, Amanda Zehner, MA'11, worked in international development throughout Central America. She became familiar with the dynamics of production and organizational structures for artisanal textile weavers in the region. She also saw how unstable and uncertain work for them could be.
"This is a livelihood for many people in Latin America, and their traditional art is dying as their markets are flooded with cheap clothing," Zehner said. "The local community is not their market anymore."
Weaving on back strap looms — stabilized on one end by a strap that wraps around the back of the weaver — has been part of the culture in the region for thousands of years, but as mass produced clothes have made their way to Latin America, locally woven goods have been phased out. As a result, the people that make them have become dependent on tourism for business, but the tourism industry is seasonal and not consistent.