The Women Behind the Orange Economy in Latin America
From fashion to cinema, and from video games to techno-agriculture, the Orange Economy generated more than 1.9 million jobs in 2015. In recent years, annual revenues from creative fields exceeded $124 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
But who are the people behind the numbers – and behind a creative wave with the potential to reshape the region? Many of them are women. In fact, female participation in the Orange Economy is greater than in other productive sectors by 13 percentage points, and it is on the rise.
CARLA FERNÁNDEZ: A HAND-WOVEN FUTURE IN MEXICO
For Carla Fernández, a Mexican designer, author and businesswoman, fashion is not only a vehicle for expression, but a way to protect cultural heritage, strand by strand. Through her clothing, she documents and preserves ancestral textile techniques.
“All of our fashion practices have to do with training. Our job is to share this knowledge so that crafts and traditional work are not lost,” she says.
The fashion industry moves $2.4 billion globally, and the trend is toward automation and the devaluation of labor. Against this current, Fernández has opted for a future that is made by hand and sustainable.
She has created an ecosystem that empowers indigenous communities through fair trade and knowledge, founded upon workshops to train craftswomen in clothing production and administration. This has allowed her to develop a business model that mixes ancient tradition with high fashion and delivers profits for the entire production chain.
“We know that for artisans to be able to continue being artisans, they have to sell at a fair price. This [model] allows them to stay in their villages. They do not need to migrate to the cities to look for other jobs, and so we generate a social balance, a common welfare,” Fernández says.
In Mexico, the cultural industry generates 1.3 million jobs and contributes about 3.3% to the gross domestic product. However, its potential is even greater, she insists: “Mexico is a cultural power, but we have to learn to live from what we do – and we can achieve that through the cultural and creative industries.”
MARTINA SANTORO: GAMING TO CHALLENGE GENDER ROLES IN ARGENTINA
Martina Santoro, founder of the video game company OKAM Studio and president of the Association of Argentine Video Game Developers (ADVA), is plugging into potential.
The video game industry has grown most rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean , with a market value that already exceeds $4 billion. In Argentina alone, there are already more than 150 companies in the field, with more than 2,000 professionals, according to ADVA data.
“We generate skilled employment for young people, and it is exported in its entirety,” says Santoro, who has worked in co-productions with Disney and Cartoon Network.
She traces the flourishing of the industry in Latin America and the Caribbean to the influence of different cultures, which she says facilitates work with the United States and Europe, the main importers of Latin American-made games. “We are a mixture of identities, and it helps us, because we understand the pop-culture references and the style of humor, since we were always exposed to them,” says Santoro.
At the same time, many of the video games created in the region promote the culture in which they originated. “There are many games that base their stories on the legends of their country, and although not everyone picks up on that, it’s a nod to the users from the country and to those who know a bit more,” she explains.
Perhaps Santoro’s most powerful role, however, is the influence she can exert on women and girls to explore careers in science and technology. In line with that goal, she gives talks to promote coding and animation for young children, and especially girls, as those professions are still primarily male.
“There are women who have been working in the industry for 40 years, but they need to go viral. Telling your story helps girls imagine themselves in that role and add it to their career options,” she says.
JOHANA BAHAMÓN: FLAVORS THAT BREAK BARRIERS IN COLOMBIA
For this Colombian actress and founding manager of the Internal Action Foundation, the Orange Economy not only contributes to development. It also creates new opportunities for marginalized segments of society. Since 2012, Johana Bahamón has worked to transform the concept of prisons in her country.
“For us, prisons should not only be detention centers. They can also be productive centers,” she says.
Bahamón developed intervention methodologies to help inmates work on their internal growth and socialization. In addition, her program created employment opportunities to allow people to work while serving their sentences – allowing them to learn skills that will help them in their future social reintegration.
The Internal Action Foundation has benefited more than 30,000 people in 37 prisons. One of the highlights of its impact is in the culinary arts, an industry valued at more than $3.800 million in Colombia.
That is, in fact, how Interno was born – a restaurant located inside the San Diego women’s prison in Cartagena. The restaurant is open to the public and staffed by the inmates. Bahamón describes it as a space for reconciliation and a place for second chances.
In Colombia today, exports from the creative industries surpass $900 million, with the audiovisual industry and book publishing at the forefront.
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