Every morning when I wake up and step out to the street, Flor is already there. Flor is 11 and she works on the streets. She comes with her traditional dress and her alpaca. Her job is to get tourists to take a picture with her – she charges one sol, which is about 25p. She is there to help her family survive financially and she does not go to school.
Peru, and Cusco at its heart, is the tourist hotspot of the entire South America. Every year thousands of tourists gather in Cusco in order to access the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. The centre of the town is a truly cosmopolitan hub with all the modern facilities and multinational restaurants. Although the Peruvian economy has grown a lot in the past years, thanks to mainly the mining industry, and Peru has risen in terms of GDP and many industrialised countries have thus stopped their development programmes here, the economic benefits have hardly reached the most vulnerable and poor sections of this Andean society.
From Flor’s perspective, the general outlook is still quite bleak. Although women used to hold an important part in the Incan and rural communities, the public space for women has been traditionally restricted and women still tend to earn about 30% less than men. If you are born a woman and especially in the rural parts of Peru, you are more likely to only finish primary school and have very few choices regarding your further life choices.
Apart from gender inequality, gender based violence is a big societal problem in Peru. According to some statistics, over half of women have suffered domestic violence at some part of their lives. Women’s rights organisations criticise the lack of coherent approach from authorities when it comes to sexual abuse. This is a problem that affects adolescents as well; almost half of reported sexual abuse cases involve minors. Unfortunately young girls are mainly molested by their family members. The unwanted pregnancies are many times a taboo, and, in the worst case scenario, the family turn their backs on the girl. Abortion is illegal.
This is where LAFF steps in. LAFF supports local organisations that work with the most vulnerable children – such as Casa Mantay, which is a home for adolescent mothers with nowhere else to turn. Just as the projects aim at empowering children to grow up to be independent, skilled and happy adults (not forgetting to enjoy their childhood first), LAFF’s mission is to help empower the partner organisations to be self-sustainable through capacity building, technical training, as well as income generation and cost-reduction activities.
My name is Jenni and I am one of the new LAFF volunteers. I will be working closely with Casa Mantay in the coming months looking at new ways of income generation and vocational training opportunities for the young mothers. Stay tuned to find out how we get on.