Elizabeth Villanueva Díaz raises alpacas and llamas in the high Andes of Peru. With her fellow handicraft association members, she creates textiles from the animals' wool to sell in a local store. She also empowers young girls by teaching them to knit. A single mother, Elizabeth uses the money she earns to feed and educate her son, and she aspires to start her own company one day.

Help empower women around the world.

Transcript: I grew up in the countryside grazing livestock, alpaca. When I was a little girl, I was always knitting. We didn't have the needles that we have now. I knit with straws from the countryside.

I always wanted to study. I was always at the top of my class. But since I was a woman, my dad didn't let me. They preferred that the boys study. The women were for grazing livestock.

Now we're realizing that's not how it is.

I have one child, a little boy. His father left to study. And I stayed with my son and raised him alone. I didn't have the money to feed myself of my son sometimes. I would knit, but I couldn't make it alone.

I got together with some other moms. "Why don't we form a handicraft association?"

It's hard in the communities. There's chauvinist men who always marginalize women. There is no strength alone. When many of us come together, then there is strength.

They named me president since we put together a group of women. They told me, "You're the most enthusiastic president."

Heifer Peru has supported us. They always bring us to trainings to find out how other people work. We share ideas. That's why we're getting ahead.

We've found this store to sell our things in. This bit of money is for our families - for education and food for my son.

When I see someone putting on something I made, something I produced, I feel so proud, so happy! It's as if it were, I don't know, a part of me. As if it were my portrait ... on their body.

But I can't learn just for myself. Learning alone and not sharing, that's not it.

Ten, 12, 13, 14, 15 year old teenage girls, I'm teaching them. I feel happy with the girls, that I get to share with them. I feel so happy that they are knitting.

"We need to know math to multiply, divide, subtract, add. Everything." And they're learning bit by bit the stiches. We have to give strength to women.

"Never," we tell them, "never say, I can't. And don't give up. Move forward until you become something in life."

I've been a woman that does work, that educates my son. He's at the top of his class every year. I'll be making him study until he has a bachelor's.

I've always said one day I'll become something in life. And now it's happening. He's going to triumph, my son. And now I'm sharing with the girls. That's why I always tell my colleagues, "Don't give up."

Maybe in 5 years we can start a company. Maybe..

Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.