Co-partners Success Stories
Co-partners of Campesinas has been providing vocational training classes to women and youth in Ilobasco, El Salvador for 26 years. Dressmaking and tailoring have always been one of the most popular classes because these skills offer the possibility of qualifying for jobs in factories that assemble clothing or starting one’s own business as a dressmaker. One graduate loved dressmaking so much that she went on to study industrial tailoring and then landed a job in a dressmaking factory where she worked for twelve years before returning home to start a family business and become an instructor for the classes where she first began learning her craft.
In 2009, the government of El Salvador decided to provide two school uniforms, a pair of shoes and school supplies to public school children through grade nine. This provided a wonderful opportunity for graduates of our sewing classes. Proposals for provision of uniforms for entire schools were solicited from organized workshops. Although many graduates of Co-partners dressmaking classes had sewn uniforms in response to individual requests, the new government program required seamstresses to organize themselves in larger workshops. In San Francisco Echeverría, A rural community outside of Ilobasco, four graduates of Co-partners classes formed a coop and successfully applied for and won a contract to sew uniforms. Although initially unsure of themselves, Yesenia, Ester, Aracely, and Santos found that as a group they had all the skills needed for successful production. Sewing in El Salvador is done by taking personal measurements and cutting each garment individually based on a system of dimensions. Soon Yesenia was the most skilled cutter and became the cutting specialist, while the other three members sewed the final products. The women were able to earn about $14/day, an excellent income for a women in rural El Salvador. They successfully produced 329 uniforms and were congratulated on their consistent quality. Although the original four are no longer working together, one member of the group, Aracely, continues to lead production for these contracts with new partners and runs a successful independent dressmaking business that supports her family when she is not producing uniforms. Aracely is an excellent example of the Co-partners’ motto, “Learn, earn and lead.” She studied dressmaking; turned her skills into income and now shares those skills through teaching, as well as taking a leadership role in the local Co-partners organization.