Casa de la Mujer de Huamachuco has played a central role in the lives of women in the community of Renca in Chile since it was established in 1989. Opening it's doors during the Pinochet Dictatorship, the women's center has a proud history of social action and female empowerment, overcoming gender stereotypes and encouraging women from disadvantaged communities to engage in fulfilling employment and contribute to public life through political engagement.
Throughout the dictatorship years Huamachuco became a workshop where local women created Arpilleras, brightly colored patchwork pictures constructed from simple materials which depict the scenes of hardship and violence that many of the women were experiencing. The production of Arpilleras provided a vital source of income for the women, many of whom had been left in a state of financial insecurity due to widespread unemployment and forced disappearances of their husbands and children. Arpilleras are recognized today as an example of subversive women's art in an authoritarian political context.
Today the center provides courses and professional training workshops in a variety of vocations, as well as leadership skills for running small businesses. Many of the women produce artisan goods, which are promoted and sold through a shop and market run out of the center. Casa de la Mujer de Huamachuco is more than just a training facility and takes a holistic view to the empowerment of women, building trust and social capital and raising the collective voice of women in the community.
The Old Dart Foundation fund the operating costs of the community nursery at the center so that 30 children have a safe space to learn and play whilst their mothers are training or working. The establishment of the nursery has had a transformative impact on the ability for mothers to engage in fulfilling livelihood activities and the public sphere, through addressing parental inequalities and giving mothers back time and autonomy.