Become Odara's mission is to empower people through storytelling. When our founder Ana Clara Otoni learned about the Women's Association of Capelinha (Associação de Mulheres de Capelinha, in Portuguese), located in the Jequitinhonha Valley, one of the most underserved communities in the State of Minas Gerais (Brazil), she immediately embraced it.
In part because she identified and connected with the challenge these women had faced, but also because Ana is from Capelinha. She was moved by the stories of resilience of these women who were overcoming depression, abusive relationships, domestic violence and abuse through education and art.
The Women's Association of Capelinha story's begins with the empowerment of a woman: Maria do Carmo, more known as Du.
After getting divorced from her ex-husband, Du needed to find ways to support her children. A friend of hers suggested a dressmaking and sewing course.
“With a lot of effort, I was able to save up some money and managed to pay for the course. Soon after, I started to make some extra income with the sale of the underwear I was creating. Throughout the entire time, I just wanted to see my children being able to go to University. That was my dream”, tells Du.
What she didn't imagine was that from her training not only her family but an entire tribe would be empowered. Du started to talk to the women in her community and noticed that they also needed other sources of income and, most importantly, these women needed activities that would take them out of their homes.
"The women would arrive here depressed. Others had problems such as alcoholism, drug use, domestic violence, sexual abuse, malnutrition, unwanted pregnancy, illiteracy… Little by little, they would open up and share about their problems, and simply by sharing they would already feel better”, tells the founder Maria do Carmo (Du).
On January 29, 2003, the Women's Association of Capelinha was founded. Since then, thousands of courses have ministered and hundreds of women have been trained to dressmaking and sewing, and also in embroidery in artisanal production.
View of the city of Capelinha, in the Jequitinhonha Valley, in Minas Gerais. (Credit: Public Records
At the Women's Association of Capelinha, art surpasses manual work and is transferred to other social, collective, historical, and cultural spheres. The association's mission is to defend the equal rights of women, promote the exchange of training with respect to the International Women's Movement and the Rights of Children and Adolescents.
Part of the association's activities includes preserving a cultural tradition of Brazilian history, the villain's folk dance.
“The villain's dance is really good for us, it's a very old tradition that we keep alive. Today we have a group of 32 women performing in Capelinha and in the rural communities in the region. (That was before the pandemic, of course),” says founder Du.
Sustainability is at the association's core. The students, after graduating, become the teachers, giving back to the community all that they had received. Sustainability also plays a role in the production of the courses itself: all the scraps leftover from the making of lingerie are reused and reinvented in the form of rugs.
Currently, the Women's Association of Capelinha has about 40 members, who produce a variety of products such as face masks, underwear, pajamas, baby diapers, dish towels, soaps, bedding, and decorated slippers.
Each product is named after the artisan who made the piece, and the income is passed on to her. All handcrafted items are for sale at the Women's Association of Capelinha, located at Rua Pedro Álvares Cabral, 77, in the Piedade neighborhood, in Capelinha, MG.
When you make a purchase of Become Odara products you also support the Capelinha Women's Association (AMCAP). For each piece purchased at our online store, 10% of the value of the piece is donated to the association to encourage the costs of maintaining the space such as rent and other expenses with workshops and training of the members.
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