Meet the woman who transformed the future of her Awajún sisters.
Balbina Paukai turned her local mother’s club, AMARNO, into Peru’s most respected indigenous artisan association.
How did the Association start?
In 2001, AMARNO was just a Mother’s Club. We used to get together to cook. We then decided to start making jewellery for sale, so we could support our families and educate our children. There were just ten of us under a little thatched roof.
What’s the importance of the forest?
The forest produces the seeds that we need to make our jewellery, which is why we are so against people who cut down the forest. These plants provide us with the seeds we need and this is why we take care of the forest and have started to harvest our own seeds in our gardens.
What has been the reaction of men in the community?
Some men were unhappy as they felt their homes have been neglected. Other men have been very supportive and helped us to gather seeds and make holes as they realise that we’re generating extra income for the family.
Women were forgotten before and it is only recently that we have started to work. Usually in Awajún tradition women haven’t worked. We’re trying to save our traditions little by little and move forwards.
What’s AMARNO’s greatest achievement so far?
Thanks to Cool Earth we feel that we have been strengthened as an institution. We’ve benefitted from capacity building that they provided and improved links to the market. This is because Cool Earth is aware of our needs and because of them we’ve been able to sell our jewellery in Lima and abroad.