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Roseborough presents program, sells sweaters

Joe Trombello | Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Minka, a co-op program meaning “working together” in Quechua, has helped about 40 Bolivian women support their families through weaving sweaters, according to Elaine Roseborough, the program’s representative in the United States.

Roseborough presented slides of her recent visit to Bolivia and spoke about her experiences with the women and the benefits of the Minka program in the Stapleton Lounge of LeMans Hall at Saint Mary’s yesterday evening.

“It has made a huge difference in their lives,” said Roseborough.

Members of the Save the Children-Canada organization brought together a group of expert knitters in Bolivia in 1989 to found the micro industry. The Save the Children program assists these Bolivian children by providing work for their mothers, which allows them the ability to attend school rather than supporting the family.

“If you can help parents earn a good living, you can help the children stay in school,” Roseborough said.

Roseborough now volunteers her time to sell the knitted goods in America. The women earn about $20 American per sweater – enough to support a family of five for a month – and knit about one sweater per month. The employees also earn bonuses and share profits at the year’s end. Roseborough said that the benefits to the women have been numerous.

“Some of them are saying [they] can now afford to have electricity,” she said. “[They have made] big improvements in their quality of life.”

Kathy Byrne, a teacher at St. Joseph’s High School in South Bend, said that Roseborough will speak to her Catholic Social Justice class today. Her students have been investigating alternative economies that do not use sweatshop labor, and Byrne said that the Minka program is an excellent alternative, and one that provides its employees a good living.

“We [the class] have become painfully aware of sweatshop labor,” she said. “We want to find a way to support new economies … [and] are trying to find alternatives to sweatshop labor.”

According to Mary Lou Derwent, the chair of Roseborough’s presentation, Roseborough sold about 17 sweaters during her visit to Saint Mary’s yesterday afternoon and planned to sell more after the presentation.

“We have had so many people here [to buy] . . . a steady stream,” she said. “It was a good idea for us to do this.”

Derwent, a member of the Ladies of Notre Dame, a group that welcomes women visitors to Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, said that Roseborough’s presentation appealed to her group because of its emphasis on providing women in a different culture with employment that allows them to earn a decent living.

“Our reason for doing this is supporting women in other cultures,” she said.

Roseborough’s talk was jointly sponsored by the Ladies of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, as well as Saint Mary’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership.