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November 25, 2018. March to commemorate the International Day Against Violence Against Women in Cusco, Peru.

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.

November 25, 2018. The mothers of Casa Mantay marching with their babies in Cusco, Peru.

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!) 

November 25, 2018. A call for action outside of the Department of Justice Building in Cusco, Peru.

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 self confidence.

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.

November 22, 2018. Sexual health and self empowerment workshops with the girls of the Sacred Valley Project in Calca, Peru.

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.

Danielle Lisnek 

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.

2 Anuario estadístico PNP 2017

3 Campaña Ya No Es Secreto: Embarazo En Niñas Y Adolescentes Por Violencia Sexual. Peru: Calandria: Comunicación Estratégica & Desarrolo, 2018.

4 Campaña Ya No Es Secreto: Embarazo En Niñas Y Adolescentes Por Violencia Sexual. Peru: Calandria: Comunicación Estratégica & Desarrolo, 2018.

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