By Abigail Spangler
The Peruvian Government has made progress in addressing gender inequality. There have been great strides at tackling gender issues. The Ministerio de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables (The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations) have worked hard in creating the National Gender Equality Plan which in the most general terms refers to the role of the State implementing policies that confront gender based violence (GBV), discrimination and inequality. Unfortunately these policies have not yet impacted Peru as drastically as some had hoped.
The cultural attitude around gender inequality and violence are many times linked to tradition. History and tradition have at times been used as an excuse for the continuation of gender discrimination. The word Macho has a long history in the Spanish language, originally associated with an ideal role men were expected to uphold in their communities such as to possess and show bravery, courage and strength as well as wisdom and leadership. Nowadays these societal roles have transcended into men displaying sexism, misogyny, and chauvinism. Here in Peru, the problem of gender discrimination lies within cultural and society attitudes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Outside of the cities, where many people feel that they are not even acknowledged by the national government, what good are laws and regulations? Especially within rural areas of Peru where there is very little presence of national government. Implementing laws are important in order to battle gender-based violence and discrimination, but the lack of enforcement is Peru’s downfall. Throughout this last year I’ve observed many local women come to the realization that laws are not going to change the ingrained behaviors men have toward women. I have witnessed a transformation in these women to channel their anger into positive change. Women have come together to campaign in an effort to empower women and change ideas around gender.
A good friend, mentor and community counterpart has been very vocal about GBV and the negative societal views men have on women. Her involvement in the community is an example of how determination and passion can lead the way to positive progression. Due to her active participation within the community she has created an environment where women have become vocal in standing up for what is right and what is wrong. Her talks in the community have encouraged people to question why certain behaviors and or attitudes toward women have not changed. And through that, the desire to create change began.
Although there is a lot of grassroots mobilization taking place all over Peru, gender inequality still handicaps women throughout all levels of society. The lack of self-worth women and girls see in themselves is disturbing. I have witnessed girls being ridiculed for wanting to go school. I have watched adolescents become ostracized from their family due to being victims of a rape and consequently becoming pregnant. I have seen women fear their husbands and how watch as their self- respect and self-esteem plummet into nothing.
One of the most inspirational aspects of this grassroots mobilization is watching how these communities are coming together to create the change for themselves. Women are empowering women and working together to challenge the societal “norms.” These women symbolize the power that we each carry within ourselves to be the positive change we want for our global community. I came to Peru with an idea that I was going to share my knowledge in development with this town. But what I’m realizing is that I am learning far more from them about resilience, perseverance, determination and passion, which are the true ingredients for change. The change that laws, regulations and policies have yet to touch out here in rural Peru.
Being adopted from Indian I grew up understanding the harsh reality my biological mother faced while she was pregnant as a single woman. Even from a young age I knew I wanted to dedicate my time and energy working in the field of gender equality and women empowerment. I am currently serving as a youth development facilitator with Peace Corps Peru. I work in a small community on projects that primarily promote gender equality, health and leadership. Prior to coming to Peru I worked in Malaysia for Tenaganita, a nonprofit that advocates for women, refugees, and migrant rights. My main focus was supporting a Burmese women’s cooperative where women were able to learn skills that promoted economic stability, leadership and gender-based training.
The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government of the Peace Corps.