July 2014—Forests hold a wealth of biodiversity. Peru’s Amazon rainforest ranks third in the world for biodiversity, and is the basis for the survival of hundreds of native communities. In these communities, women are the gatekeepers of ancestral knowledge for the use of non-timber forest resources such as seeds and medicinal plants.
Pro Mujer Oriente, which means Pro Eastern Women, is a small business in Ucayali that makes handicrafts using tree seeds. Liz Tutusima, a Ucayali lawyer, founded the company in October 2010, inspired by her college thesis, which revealed that women’s vulnerability to gender-based violence in native communities decreased relative to an increase in their income. Through their work with the company, indigenous women who have been victims of domestic violence have found renewed hope in the forest.
Jovita Maynas, a Shipiba woman and leader of a group of native women who work with Tutusima, found psychological support in Pro Mujer Oriente’s network in May 2013, after suffering domestic violence and recovering her daughter from a human trafficking ring.
“We strive not only to give women the chance to sell their products and have a viable income; we also seek through Pro Mujer Oriente to help them attain emotional stability and financial independence so that no one may do them harm,” says Tutusima.
Pro Mujer Oriente works with 54 women who have suffered some form of violence. The fruit of their effort is having a positive impact on the welfare of their community, and especially on children.
“Irakeaki Dios noanato nibo noa ashonicopi,” or “Thank God for the benefits provided to us through the forests,” says Elena Majin, head of the San Salvador Community Handicraft Workshop in Pucallpa.
USAID’s Peru Bosques Project helps Pro Mujer Oriente identify and establish partnerships through participation in national trade fairs—such as ExpoAmazónica—as well as improve presentation and marketing of the business and its products. As a result of her alliance with the project, Tutusima participated in the Quality Management Program, where she learned techniques to improve product quality and better organize her business, resulting in lower costs and an increased clientele and income.
Pro Mujer Oriente’s products are exported to markets in the United States and Europe, while the women walk the forest trails in search of more seeds to enhance their autonomy.
The Peru Bosques Project, which runs from July 2011 to July 2016, is designed to achieve a legal and regulatory framework to protect Peru's forest sector, a sustainable conservation of biodiversity in the country’s Amazonian forests, and increased economic opportunities for businesses and native communities that make products from the forests’ natural resources.
Last updated: August 25, 2015