Three women from Latin America speak about their work with bamboo.
Andrea, Carolina, and Luz do not know each other, but these three women offer an inspiring example of women working in bamboo. They are pioneers in sectors that have historically been occupied by men. They show that quality and talent do not depend on gender, but on the combination of hard work, effort and dedication, which allows transforming the invisible into the visible.
Their stories below highlight their contribution to society, their communities and the bamboo field.
A ‘non-disposable’ future
Across the world, sustainable construction is advancing in giant steps. The presence of women in this area is critical to reducing the inequality gap and achieving various community needs.
This perception is kept in mind by Andrea Olvera, 23, who is studying architecture. Despite her young age, she believes that all human activities must be focused on sustainability. For this reason, she is committed to the use of bamboo in the construction sector. “It is a wonderful material, which gives great aesthetic value to any building”, she says. “We have to change the way we build.”
Andrea believes bamboo offers a way to satisfy the housing and infrastructure needs of the present without compromising future generations. “We need more bamboo constructions. With this material, there are infinite possibilities,” she emphasises.
This young student indicates that it is necessary for new buildings to have special respect and commitment to the environment, but in order to achieve this, Andrea points out that learning institutions need to take new approaches that merge research, practice and experience. “Universities have to update and expand their teachings on bioconstruction systems. After the publication of the Ecuadorian Bamboo Construction Standard, it would be feasible for them to teach us how to use this material because bamboo is the construction material of the now,” she points out.
So far, Andrea has already managed to get involved in some projects where bamboo is used. Together with other professionals, she is becoming an ambassador for bamboo, working to give this material recognition as a tool in the fight against climate change. “It amazes me when someone finds a new use for bamboo… Personally, this material gave a new meaning to my career”, she says.
Although Andrea has only just begun her career, at 23, she is already forging a new path towards the future.
A weaver of dreams
Luz Moreno has been weaving her future with bamboo for about three years. For Luz, attending a weaving training workshop in Portoviejo, Ecuador inspired a process of change and an opportunity to improve herself, as a person and as an entrepreneur. “Making baskets and wallets out of bamboo has allowed me to generate economic gains and contribute at home,” she adds.
Although in the beginning, making this type of product was exhausting, the hours of practice have made the difference. Her talent is now reflected in her creations, ranging from baskets of different sizes to a variety of purses, which catch the eye of those who pass outside her home in the province of Manabí, Ecuador. “We must promote and spread the use of bamboo because it is going to be the future; with this plant, you can do beautiful things and get ahead,” she adds.
Luz always highlights the versatility that bamboo offers. Having participated in bamboo training workshops, she now shares her acquired knowledge with others. “We must promote more courses on this type of craft so that more people can learn and benefit from it.”
In her association, Sembrando Esperanza, or ‘Planting Hope’, Luz and other members focus not only on handicrafts but also, increasingly, on construction. In the town, they have built three houses with bamboo. “I am surprised, that I can build a house with my own hands.”
For this entrepreneur, bamboo is important not just because of its great sustainability potential, but also as a reminder that new opportunities come hand in hand with research and discovering how to do things better.
Dreaming of change
The use of bamboo makes homes more accessible to the population and friendly to the environment, while still being an excellent structural material for construction.
Carolina Zuluaga is a bamboo architect, designer and builder who has been working with the material for more than 20 years. Although her beginnings have not been easy in a field in which is predominated by men, she emphasizes that the love for what she does has kept her firm doing what others would like to do, but not they dare. “It has not been easy, it has been a hard fight, since I was in college we were only a few women.” “It doesn’t mean that as women we don’t have the capacity; it’s just that the environment is still very macho.”
Carolina has worked on different bamboo construction projects. “Bamboo is an important material because of its environmental benefits. When working with bamboo, there is no waste. The energy used to develop a project is minimal… you just have to dare to use this material,” she explains.
For Carolina, materials like bamboo can generate employment for women in the household and increase the workforce for this type of construction. Nowadays, this material is becoming less associated with poverty, as new research shows bamboo’s resistance and strength. “I believe that we must study everything that can be achieved with bamboo”, Carolina says.
Regarding the designs that are being developed with bamboo, Carolina suggests that it is necessary to evolve towards new styles. “I usually tell new people in the field to research and not limit themselves to what the university tells them,” she says.
Together, Carolina, Andrea and Luz represent some of the possibilities for women working in bamboo. Through working with a material that is versatile, renewable and widespread, these women are also helping shape a future where women can contribute to more sustainable construction and craftsmanship, thus a sustainable future.
This article was originally written in Spanish ‘Mujeres le apuestan a una construcción sostenible con bambú’ and has been adapted for comprehension.
Check out INBAR projects in Latin America.