“LAS PIONERAS” FOR A BETTER LIFE

Thousands of people from all parts of Peru move to the capital city in the hope of a better life. Due to the massive immigration and the uncontrolled settlement construction a second city has emerged around Lima in recent decades.

Our partner organisation IDEMNNA (Instituto de Desarrollo “Maria Elena Moyano”) works in the community of Villa El Sol in Jicamarca where living conditions are extremely precarious: There is no basic supply of water and electricity. Violence, alcohol, drugs and the land trade cause massive problems. Most families live in extreme poverty. IDEMNNA works together with the women and their children in this project. The aim is to improve family life, to support the women in their personal development and independence and to strengthen solidarity in the community.

Photos EcoSolidar

Photoreport about the project in Peru

The environment in Jicamarca is barren and stony, there is hardly any green and the area looks hostile to life. People build their little houses on the hills and most of them secure their livelihood from day to day with casual work. There is no running water; people have to order water and pay on delivery. In the current corona crisis, the inhabitants of this area are facing even more difficult problems. IDEMNNA is therefore supporting them with information about corona and sanitary precautions.

Virginia Rivera Aquino (in the middle) is one of the women in the project. Tabita Lozano (right) and Carmen Velásquez (left) are the founders of IDEMNNA. These two women started the project in Jicamarca, a suburb of Lima, two years ago and invested their own savings. They are employed 50% each and take turns working with the local women. They accompany the women very closely and they put their heart and soul into this work.

At the centre of the work of IDEMNNA is a group of women. They meet regularly and talk about their experience with violence, difficulties in raising their children and other problems of everyday life. Most of them left their homes at a very young age and have experienced many disappointments. They had their children very early, are often single parents and can hardly cope with their situations. The meetings in the group are very important for the women; they exchange knowledge and develop strategies for survival and help each other solve their problems. At the same time the women are supported by IDEMNNA in their financial independence through the development of their own business ideas and with small loans as start-up aid.

The solidarity in the group means that they no longer put up with everything. They learn how they can support themselves and each other with their actions and resources. The group is a source of strength and growing self-confidence for them; so much so that they have given themselves the name “Las Pioneras”.

When Virginia moved to Jicamarca with her four sons two years ago, she had nothing. She took up any job she could get to earn some money. Eventually she started a plastic recycling business: She buys plastic and cleans it at home. She separates it from staples and cardboard and then resells it.

IDEMNNA supports women in the development and implementation of business ideas and gives them a start-up loan. The necessary purchases are made together with the women. Virginia used her loan to buy a larger stock of plastic and expand her business. Today she earns around 300 USD per month and is even thinking of employing another woman.

The women’s businesses usually start with an idea which they discuss with Tabita and Carmen and in the group. They also discuss positive and negative experiences. In the end the women create a business plan. Afterwards they receive a small start-up loan to make the necessary purchases for the implementation of their business ideas.

Virginia is a role model for the others, especially because of her successful business model. The women meet regularly in small groups and exchange views about work and family life. An important subject is the violence many of them have experienced in their lives. In the group they support each other and learn to defend themselves against violence and to live a non-violent life with their children.

Virginia lives together with three of her sons. The elder two work in a factory and contribute to the livelihood of the family. The youngest son still goes to school and after school he helps with the separation of the plastic. Virginia has experienced a lot of exploitation in her life and is very proud of owning her own business now and of having become more confident and less dependent on others.

Eulalia lives with her three sons and her husband. Living together is extremely difficult and often unbearable for her. In the women’s group Eulalia finds support and advice on how to deal with her situation. The situation has fortunately started to improve and Eulalia has found some hope.

Eulalia has invested her start-up loan into sewing machines, fabric and thread to expand her sewing business. She repairs clothes for customers. Her goal is to produce her own clothes, first on order and later independently for the market.

Eulalia has a small garden on the outside wall of her house where she grows tomatoes, herbs and lettuce. This is not easy, because water is a rare commodity in Jicamarca which has to be ordered and filled into water tanks for a fee. This quantity of water must suffice for everything, for drinking, cooking, washing and also for the garden.

Tabita and Carmen visit the women regularly at their homes and talk to them about their personal problems. Most of the women are single parents and their everyday life is strongly marked by the difficulties in raising their children single-handedly. Therefore, IDEMNNA also involves the children themselves in the work with the women.

Herlinda grates ice, mixes it with fruit syrup and sells it in the street. With IDEMNNA’s business start-up loan she bought a machine for crushing ice. She also sells honey and Algarrobina (carob), which she gets from her family in northern Peru.

The women meet with the children at Herlinda’s and enjoy the fruit ice she has made. Up to now they have met at different women’s homes. IDEMNNA has recently been able to rent a piece of land, on which a small meeting place is now being built for the women’s group.

Two of Erlinda’s four sons are just entering puberty. She is a single mother and often unable to cope with the problems in the family. In the women’s group she gains strength and courage and is able to share her concerns. At the same time the women also experience happy and funny moments together. They can be sure of the support of the others.

The involvement of the children in the project is of great importance. Tabita and Carmen have many years of experience in working with children in need. They know that the role of the mothers is crucial. Through the mothers the family life and the relationship between parents and their children can be influenced.