Women in Puerto Rico have recently launched ProyectoMatria, a store to showcase art, clothing, accessories and products for mother and child, all produced by survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence.
The new store, called Matrias, is a pilot project initially scheduled to run until December in San Juan’s Santurce district. It is an offshoot of the business incubator initiative, known as Libera, which seeks to provide women with alternatives to discrimination and violence.
“When you buy a product at Matrias, you are supporting our participants’ empowerment and self-sufficiency,” ProyectoMatria case manager Tanagra Melgarejo Pulido told Puerto Rican outlet Noticel. “But more important still, you are promoting social justice.”
Organizers behind the initiative will help end the cycle of domestic abuse in part by providing women with more opportunities for economic self-reliance and a greater sense of confidence that often accrues from that independence.
“If women in situations of violence don’t have economic means to be able to manage housing, food, electricity water, the basics of life, then they stay in these situations of violence or can fall into new situations of violence,” Melgarejo told Puerto Rico’s El Vocero. “Matria is the first and only incubator focused on working with women survivors of gender (violence), who are also poor women.”
In addition to ProyectoMatria’s business incubator initiative, the project has three other programs focused on transitional housing, skills development and job placement, and microcredit for women. The project, founded in 2004 in response to sexual and domestic violence, also created the Institute for Gender and Advanced Education, known as Igea, focused on offering professional training and organizational development for women and community groups, with an emphasis on gender equality and strategies for confronting violence.
ProyectoMatria has also worked to generate debate around sexism and patriarchy in politics in Puerto Rico and the impacts it has on women’s and LGBTI individuals’ safety and participation in political life.
Organizers have described the participants in the Matrias store, the makers of unique and high-quality products, as “warriors” capable of overcoming violence and poverty.