Ñepi Behña means "woman with dignity" in ñähñú, an indigenous language spoken in Hidalgo, Mexico by the Otomí people. We are an independent and engaged grassroots organization focused on guiding women artisan groups living in poverty and with high migration rates, to establish economic, social and cultural strategies that promote the dignity and equal development of their rural indigenous communities.
The founding members of Ñepi Behña, Adirana Welsh and Magali Arce, started working together towards the wellbeing of indigenous women since 1993. Later on, in 1998, they were asked by the organization Idear S.C to help organize a ñähñú artisan womens group at the Mezquital Valley in Mexico to acquire Fair Trade Principles in order for them to continue selling their products to The Body Shop. They were to conduct a Fair Trade evaluation for small groups of producers working on economic projects. This collaboration led to the consolidation of the cooperative Ya Muntsi Behña in the year 2000, created by the same group of ñähñú women. After years of similar work Ñepi Behña was formally created in 2004 to promote women´s empowerment by providing mentorships and trainings for indigenous groups in conditions of poverty in rural and urban areas. Ñepi Behña has a holistic approach to economy and believes in fostering leadership skills in women to have a positive impact on their community´s food and environmental sustainability, and their overall wellbeing. Our main strategy is women´s empowerment, enabling them to advance their communities through their own knowledge and by providing workshops on human rights with a gender perspective, ecotechnics, sustainability, organizational skills and Fair Trade principles in order to maximize their potential .
As a result of the educational program, nine cooperatives have been created serving as educational and production spaces offering an alternative for their economic autonomy. In 2008 we co-founded the Fair Trade Central Corazon Verde along with the nine coops, to help their products have further reach into the market with equity Our experience with the artisans made us aware of the lack of representation and understanding that the prevailing Fair Trade seals have regarding their practice. Therefore we are currently designing a Participatory Certification System that creates a Fair Trade certified seal with a perspective on gender and inclusion, specifically tailored for women producing crafts.