"Wema" (yellow rump cacique) is the name given to a bird in the rainforest; a weaving bird that makes nests close to lakes and other sources of water. Wema is also the name of the Waorani women’s initiative.

The Waorani are an Amazonian people with one of the most extensive indigenous territories in all of Ecuador. They are a community with their own language and culture that is shared through women’s songs, through traditional dances, and countless stories about its traditional ways of life. They are a community fighting to preserve its customs and own way of living.

Wao women are essential to the culture, since they guard the secrets to life and express them in the form of songs. Just like the Wema bird, which weaves nests for its young, Wao women weave chambira palm and make crafts representing their role in their own culture. As they work with the chambira, they also build strong family ties.

Wao women are essential to the culture, since they guard the secrets to life and express them in the form of songs. Just like the Wema bird, which weaves nests for its young, Wao women weave chambira palm and make crafts representing their role in their own culture. As they work with the chambira, they also build strong family ties.

In partnership with the Association of Waorani Women — AMWAE — we have begun a process of walking hand in hand while supporting women of various communities, focusing our efforts on community organizing and on helping them develop their craft and cacao initiatives.

Just like the Wema bird, the women weave…

They not only weave baskets, necklaces and earrings. They also weave relationships of trust and respect with one another, their families, and their home in the rainforest. Each one of their pieces is unique, since each woman weaves with her own feelings. From morning to night, women weave because the very act represents their role within the family. They not only create adornments for their bodies; with their hands they also build baskets, nets and pots that become a practical expression of their culture, of their everyday life.

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