Women at Miquelina are now members of the ownership trust

Women at Miquelina are now members of the ownership trust

Women working in a Colombian clothing factory have become partner-owners in the Páramo company.

The setting up of an employee ownership trust means 150 workers at the Miquelina facility in Bogotá have a stake in the brand.

The nuns who run the foundation agreed to transfer the ownership of the operation to an EOT set up by Páramo and Nikwax founder Nick Brown.

A spokesperson for Páramo said: “During a visit to Colombia in 1992, Nick came across Creaciones Miquelina, a small factory that had been set up by Sister Esther Castaño Meija, the mother superior of Las Adoratrices in Colombia.

“Her religious order provides practical help to women trapped in prostitution and exploitative situations, often as a result of civil war and the Colombian drugs trade. From their meeting, a partnership between a social endeavour and a commercial entity was born.”

The nuns running the foundation agreed to the transfer to an EOT

The nuns running the foundation agreed to the transfer to an EOT

The women who worked at Miquelina formed the workforce for production of Páramo clothing, which uses Nikwax technology to provide water resistance without the use of laminates, membranes and taped seams.

The spokesperson said: “The expert craftsmanship of the women at Miquelina make superior garments renowned for long-term performance, durability and longevity.

“These garments are easily renewed with Nikwax aftercare products, which means there are numerous Páramo jackets being used daily, still performing over twenty years later. The demand for this proven performance has enabled over 10,000 women to come through the programme at Miquelina, each growing in confidence and gaining a skillset, something all Páramo Partners are deeply proud of.”

There are currently 150 women working in the Miquelina factory and a further 50 working for Páramo in the UK.

With advancing age – Brown is 67 and Madre Esther is 93 – the pair looked for ways of ensuring the principles of the business could continue and an EOT was set up on 1 February, effectively passing ownership of the company to its employees.

The spokesperson said: “Since Miquelina was set up for the benefit of its employees in the first place, it was logical that Miquelina and Páramo should combine.

“There are significant benefits for Miquelina, in terms of access to capital and business expertise, and practical benefits to Páramo in securing its production. With a degree of sadness, but mostly excitement and joy, the sisters handed over management of the factory to the EOT.”

Viviana Montenegro at work in the factory

Viviana Montenegro at work in the factory

Viviana Montenegro, a flat seam machine operator at the factory, said: “It all started nine years ago when I was walking by and saw the sign for Creaciones Miquelina.

“I stopped and made a decision then and there to make a better life for me and my two daughters. As a child, I hadn’t even finished primary school and so taking instruction and advice from the nuns as an adult was quite difficult at first, but I was determined to learn and progress.

“I started in the training centre where I met many other women who had stories similar to mine, and together we started to rebuild our lives. We became a family and still today we look out for each other.

“Being at Miquelina has changed my life, I am now able to confidently communicate with my family and colleagues, as they see me as a dignified woman with a decent job and my girls have their mother back full time. Being part of the Páramo family means that my life will improve; I am able to study further and progress from being a machinist.

“I look forward to paying off my house as well as saving for my daughters education, but above all, continue helping the many women who really need it.”

Nick Brown said: “One thing that drives me to return to Bogotá and Miquelina time and again, is the extraordinary spirit of the ladies who make Páramo clothing, and their determination to overcome the history that led them to Miquelina.

“A word that is used often in Miquelina is ‘superar’. It means to overcome and reach for new heights. But none of this could have happened without the dedication of the sisters who set up this project, and who really understand the meaning of love, and how to give selflessly.”

Páramo is named after an area of the Andes in South America. It was there in 1986, about 3,800m above sea level, Nick Brown tested his first garment and fabric combinations.

The company was launched in 1992 and was the first outdoor company to join the Greenpeace Detox commitment in 2016, eliminating PFC treatments from its entire product range. In January 2017, Creaciones Miquelina became a full member of the World Fair Trade Organization.