Dominican women: Creativity from banana waste

The project aims to empower women by strengthening their capacities and insertion in the labour market. Photo: Pedro Espinal / UNDP Dominican Republic
"If I start naming everything that is made with banana fibre, I’ll never finish," says Renata Montesinos, a Dominican artisan. Photo: Pedro Espinal / UNDP Dominican Republic
The project has helped more than 700 women to generate their own income. Photo: Pedro Espinal / UNDP Dominican Republic
Through creativity, Renata and other women sought an alternative to generate income from this product. Photo: Pedro Espinal / UNDP Dominican Republic
In the country, the artisanal sector is a source of income for more than 6,000 families. Photo: Pedro Espinal / UNDP Dominican Republic

"If I start naming everything that is made with banana fibre, I’ll never finish," says Renata Montesinos, a Dominican artisan. Together with other women from Valverde, a province in the north-west of the country, she produces wallets, pictures and various decorative objects from the scraps of this fruit.

Valverde, with 160 thousand inhabitants, stands out for the production and export of bananas, which generates 15,000 direct jobs. However, the number of women with their own farms is very limited. Through creativity, Renata and other women sought an alternative to generate income from this product.

The project "Promoting Women's Economic Autonomy and Participation in Valverde Province", implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Valverde Local Economic Development Agency (ADELVA) with financial support from Fundación Popular, supports women in the area to undertake and seek work opportunities.

The project aims to empower women in the province by strengthening their capacities and insertion in the labour market, improving their access to economic resources and their integration into decision making at the local level.

With support from UNDP, more than 700 women completed training in planning, enterprise management, use of information and communication technologies, and productive and community linkages.

It takes three days to transform banana peel and stem fibre in wallets, hats, pictures, bracelets, necklaces, vases and flowers, among other crafts. "The only thing you need is the desire to learn and to trust that you can," says 68-year-old Gertrudis Santiago.

Highlights

  • The project has helped more than 700 women in the province of Valverde to generate their own income.
  • In 2016, more than 1,500 people participated in 38 awareness-raising and 13 trainings in entrepreneurship, generation of ideas, profitability, participation of women, and sales strategy.
  • In the Dominican Republic, the handcraft sector is a source of income for more than 6,000 families and moves around US $ 312 million per year.

"The business is in the handicraft fairs here in Valverde, and what I enjoy the most is making my paintings for sale," she says.

She and Renata, both mothers, say the initiative that has brought them fulfilment. It shows that people can be productive "regardless of age," according to Gertrudis.

Although the project emphasizes the empowerment of women, men are integrally involved, taking part in the 38 awareness-raising events and 13 trainings in the areas of entrepreneurship, idea generation, profitability, women's participation and sales. In 2016, these activities were attended by more than 1,500 people.

"If you sell three pieces in a day you can have a profit of about 3,000 pesos (about US$65), although sometimes we do not charge the right amount," says Renata. However, "beyond the economic aspect, there is the satisfaction of earning income from our own work," she added.

In Dominican Republic, the artisanal sector is a source of income for more than 6,000 families and generates around US$ 312 million per year. However, of 6,300 artisans in the province of Valverde, only 20 percent are women.

"The experiences of both (Renata and Gertrudis) inspire us to continue developing similar projects in other provinces. In addition to boosting productivity and the economy, the potential and leadership of women as agents of change at the local level is visible and the importance of their contributions being taken into account alongside those of men to contribute to the fulfilment of Agenda 2030, "says Luciana Mermet, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in the Dominican Republic.

 "Having the support of my partner has been key to continuing and thinking that this is not a hobby but a long-term project to generate income," says Renata. Her dream is to open her own crafts store.