Ni una menos—Marching with the girls of Casa Mantay
On November 25th, The International
Day against Violence against Women, I marched the streets of Cusco with the
young mothers of Casa Mantay along with various other organizations to raise
awareness to end violence against women and girls.
Violence against women and girls manifests
itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, including intimate partner
violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital
mutilation and child marriage. This major issue continues to be an obstacle to
achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women
and girls’ human rights.
Violence against women and girls is one of
the most persistent and devastating human rights violations in both Peru and
our world today. Worldwide, 1 in 3
women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most
frequently by an intimate partner1. In Peru,
12 girls are sexually violated every
single day2. In 2017 alone, 6621 cases of sexual abuse against girls and adolescents were
reported in Peru3. Of those 6621 cases, 2140 were against girls between 10 and
13 years old and 2346 were against
adolescents between 14 and 17 years old4.
Although these numbers seem high, they are largely underestimated because
violence against women and girls remains largely unreported due to the
impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.
This issue hits close to home because many of
the young girls we work with have been sexually abused. Marching along side the
young mothers of Casa Mantay who have become mothers as a result of sexual
violence was incredibly moving. It was so powerful to see the girls marching in
a line, each one pushing her baby in a stroller while shouting chants such as “Con ropa o sin ropa mi cuerpo no se toca!”
(With or without clothes, my body’s not to be touched!) and “Dicen que las mujeres no saben luchar. Ya verá el gobierno carajo lo que va a pasar, ¡A la lucha vamos ya, a la
lucha!” (They say that
women do not know how to fight. The government will soon see what is going to
f****** happen. To the fight we go, to the fight!)
These mothers are between the ages of 11
and 18 years old, most of them children themselves. They have big hopes and
dreams they envision for themselves, which have now been put on the backburner.
I have been working with the educators of Casa Mantay to develop curricula and
lead workshops with the goal to educate these girls on their rights as women,
support them to increase their self-confidence, and inspire them to live safe, healthy
and happy lives free of violation and abuse.
The first time I asked each girl to share
one thing she loves about herself, not one person could come up with an answer.
After provoking them week after week to write down what they love about
themselves, what they are good at, and why they are good mothers, it has
gradually become easier for them to answer these questions—a true indicator of
In addition to working with the girls of
Casa Mantay, I have also been doing workshops with the girls of the Sacred
Valley Project in Ollantaytambo and Calca. The aim of these workshops is to
increase their self-confidence and equip them with knowledge about sexual
health, pregnancy prevention, and their rights as women. I also strive to
increase their comfort and ability to say ‘no’ to unwanted sex, and to be able
to talk openly and proudly about their bodies without shame or stigma. Before
starting these workshops, I thought the girls would be very timid and reluctant
to share their thoughts about these taboo topics such as their bodies, sex, and
menstruation. However, to my surprise, almost all of the girls have quickly
opened up to me and have been excited to share their thoughts and experiences each
week. I have already seen an increase in knowledge, self-confidence and comfort
level discussing these important topics.
So, women and men, girls and boys, let’s remind ourselves of the strength and perseverance of girls around the world. Stand up for what you believe, join the fight, and be proud to be a feminist.
1 World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive
Health and Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,
South African Medical Research Council (2013). Global and
regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health
effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence,
p.2. For individual country information, see The World’s Women
2015, Trends and Statistics, Chapter 6, Violence against
Women, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2015 and UN
Women Global Database on Violence against Women.