During the week of March 6th, I attended my 1st Cuso Peru volunteer training meeting last week. There are two each year in March & September. It just worked out well this one happened within a few months of being in the country. It is usually a 2+ day event. We had our 1st meeting at the original hotel we stayed at on Wednesday afternoon. The facilitator who would be with us for the whole event, did a workshop on gender. This was done in anticipation of the fact that it was March 8th – International Women’s Day (IWD).
After a piece where in groups we introduced each other, we then experienced a very basic intro to gender. I felt like I was in a sociology 101 course. Oh well. I know that not everyone will be at my level of knowledge, understanding and experience, but I somehow do feel that by the nature of this work in international development, a volunteer will have some basis of knowledge and acknowledgement about gender inequality. This is one of the key issues addressed by Cuso You are assessed on this topic prior to being accepted as a volunteer and subsequently it has to be one of objectives incorporated into your work – addressing gender inequality that is – so one could not be a volunteer without some understanding of it. I think the facilitator had not either been informed of the general backgrounds of volunteers and/or they did not do some research into the organization prior to the workshop.
There was one juicy bit of discussion on this topic – the issue of covering the costs of abortion, contraception and pregnancy should a female volunteer require such services. We did get a large quantity of condoms at the in country training which was a surprise but I thought a good idea. The issue was a complex one. There were many dimensions that could potentially be involved – the insurance company which provides our extended health care coverage, the Cuso office in a volunteer’s country and the culture of the country in which the volunteer was doing work. As you can imagine, here in Peru, a traditionally very Catholic nation, abortion is a contentious issue – sorry I don’t know the specifics of what is allowed by law or not since this just isn’t part of my work as it would be for some other volunteers whose job it is to be a gender advisor for community organizations. I do understand that some abortions are legal. In the end, the Cuso staff said they would support the volunteer in what they needed and that it would be done on a case by case basis.
After the session, we all got into taxis, usually 5 into one plus the driver – not legal in Canada! – and we headed to the beginning of the march. I am embarrassed to say but I believe this was the first IWD march I have attended, not sure why. After I asked, it was explained to me that in each district there are various groups, some women’s groups, some labour, some political party groups, etc…, that organize bringing together people to attend the march. Each district then converges together and ends up with a pretty large group of people.
It was not the first time I have attended such a large event, having participated in the Battle of Seattle or Anti-WTO gathering in Nov/Dec 1999. However the bulk of the march took place after the sun went down. Of course in a city that isn’t such a big deal with all the street lamps. After a 2 hour walk we finally arrived at the Plaza San Martin. It was all very peaceful, with of course many drumming troupes, groups with banners, folks handing out literature, and lots of supportive bystanders and of course a few honking car drivers pissed that they were stuck in traffic (folks here are frequently honking their horns as if that will get the cars to move). There was a significant police presence which was to be expected and with traffic cops it all went smoothly. Side note: it is interesting to note that we frequently see groups of ½ dozen or so riot police standing on corners at major intersections. Not sure why; once we did see a small march of a sports team and the riot police were backing them up. Did they think there would be a fight between sporting clubs? There might have been some speakers but we didn’t stick around. It was close to 9 p.m. by then, we had walked for about 2 hours and we were all starving so we left the area to get some food.
Folks said it was larger than usual which was a positive sign in light of the following. I am not certain of the details but a new law was instituted in 2016 which required the school curricula to include materials about sexuality and gender (in)equality from the 3rd grade onwards (sex education had been part of the curricula for some time, just not the emphasis on equality). Not surprisingly this has created a backlash in what is essentially a Catholic country. But the Catholics aren’t the main critics here, at least not the majority of them.
You know the usual controversy: “We can’t possibly be teaching our kids about birth control and sexual reproduction – that is the parent’s responsibility. Our children will just start having lots of sex then. This way our children will remain virgins, not engaging in sex, until they marry.” Yeah right. They argue that the new national curriculum wants to make Peruvian school children into homosexuals, onanists (those who masturbate – that was a new word for me), sexual deviants, and of course having sex outside of marriage. They denounce the Ministry of Education as imposing a ‘gender ideology’ that will destroy the Peruvian Family. You know the discriminatory whole black and white sex & gender thing. For several years now, there is a small but powerful movement of anti-gender folks (they don’t say anti gender inequality) stemming from the infiltration of evangelical Christian organizations into the country. And guess what, their anti-gay campaign/anti gender – since God has predetermined you are either a boy or girl and you can’t change that) – has kicked into high gear.
I had noticed after I began work and would walk a more or less regular route to the office, a poster near an evangelical private school with a picture of a circle and a line through the circle – see the pic below. And then I started to notice more, finding a leaflet on the ground in the downtown area. In the circle are the words ideology of gender. They claim that the law and government are imposing an ideology of gender, arguing the concept of gender pertaining to the sexuality of humans is not connected to science. The evangelicals believe that one’s genitals predetermine one’s gender and sexuality, it is immutable and is as their god would have preordained. You get the picture.
Fortunately I was not aware of any presence of this anti-gay/gender equality at the march. Fortunately these fundamentlists are not yet successful in challenging the law, but then I don’t know all the details of this. I believe the march was a clear sign of significant support for the need to address the violence women experience – the stats are horrific here thanks to the culture of machismo. I do remember several months ago, reading a news story online about an Argentinian young women who was raped and horrifically violated and who subsequently died of her injuries. There were huge protests in all Latin American countries as a sign of support for the efforts to stop the violence against women. Fortunately the rapists were arrested.
Clearly there are women who work outside of their home in this city, country, as I see them on their way to work on the bus. I must say though that each time I go out for lunch with my colleagues, Amelie, Laura & Abel, we are the only table with women and there are 3 of us!! As is oh so common globally the expectation is that women’s domain is that of the home. Here they are expected to take care of all domestic tasks, so women who work outside the home are doing the double shift. There is a specific issue with small scale urban farmers, a majority being women. As their garden plots are close to home, the women are able to cultivate produce. To sell the produce presents the challenge if they must go offsite to do so. Of course some husbands are supportive and women do vend at farmers markets. Some husbands work alongside their wives both in the garden and at the farmers markets. (One exception is that it tends to be men who sell the cuy (guinea pigs) even if it is the women who tend to them). But sometimes it is only the husbands who sell. The issue then becomes who controls the finances within a household. I am not sure at this time how much I will be exploring this issue in the project I will be undertaking but I’m sure some of these factors will be considered.
That’s all for now folks.
Happy Belated International Women’s Day!!
The following is something I found from http://www.promsex.org/, Centro de promocion y defensa de los derechos sexuales y reproductivos (Centre for the promotion and defense of sexual and reproductive rights) and used google translate to download:
Analysis of the National Curriculum of Basic Education
- On June 3, 2016, through Ministerial Resolution 281-2016-MINEDU published on June 3, the Ministry of Education approved the Curriculum of Basic Education 1 , which will come into force on January 2017 in all public educational institutions and programs and the country. This document incorporates a cross-cutting approach in its design, including as one of its principles gender equality
- On November 7, 2016, the Archbishop of Arequipa expressed his publicly against the implementation of the new school curriculum because, according to the opinion of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, it introduces the so-called “gender ideology”, attacks the family and promotes “Homosexuality” and “sex change”.
- On November 22, 2016, MINEDU, through the General Directorate of Regular Education, responded to the criticism and clarified that the new school curriculum is based on gender equality and on the discrimination and fosters respect and coexistence among students.
What does the new school curriculum really say?
“The student makes decisions with autonomy, taking care of himself and the
Others, seeking their well-being and that of others. Assumes your rights and
Responsibilities. It recognizes and values its difference and that of others. Live your
Sexuality by establishing healthy affective bonds. “
It is proposed that all children and adolescents develop throughout their education
(Initial, Elementary and Secondary) to strengthen their capacity for self-discernment not to
Act or respond to pressure from third parties. They are called to exercise a sexuality that does not
Produce irreparable damage and promote responsibility for their own actions. The
Non-discrimination, respect for diversity and free and responsible living
1 Document available in: Http://www.minedu.gob.pe/curriculo/pdf/curriculo-nacional-2016-2.pdf
“The student assumes interculturality, gender equity and inclusion
As forms of coexistence for enrichment and mutual learning. “
It is proposed that the adolescent recognize equality between men and women as subjects
Of rights and that accepts and values the contributions of other cultures as part of the
formative. Diversity and equality are considered as positive values that enrich the
Coexistence and learning in the educational field.
“The student shows a critical attitude towards the care of his health, as well as
Sociomotor skills such as conflict resolution,
Strategic, gender equality, teamwork, among others. “
It is proposed to eradicate violence and the devaluation of the feminine as a practice of
Relationship. It promotes the development of communication, tolerance and
respect. Your health care is included as one of the necessary
Acquire children and adolescents, among other skills such as teamwork.
“Recognize students as subjects of rights and not as objects of
Care, that is, as persons with the capacity to defend and demand their
Legally recognized rights. Also, recognize that they are citizens with
Responsibilities that participate in the social world by fostering life in
Democracy. “Page 13
It promotes autonomy, the development of critical sense and self-opinion. It encourages
Citizen participation. Students are recognized as active citizens,
Autonomous and responsible, with full rights recognized within the framework of a system
“Girls, children, adolescents, adults and young people are entitled not only to
Educational opportunities of equal quality, but to obtain results of
Learning of equal quality, regardless of their cultural differences,
Social, ethnic, religious, gender, disability or
Learning. “Page 14
It incorporates the sense of justice and non-discrimination. It is oriented to human development
Focusing on values of human rights and democracy and on the basis of respect for
Differences and in solidarity with people in conditions of vulnerability. The
Access to education as a fundamental right defined
Opportunities and overcoming possible causes of discrimination or inequality.
“Attention to diversity means eradicating exclusion, discrimination and
Inequality of opportunity. “
It calls for the reduction of inequality gaps and the development of more
Inclusive. Respect for human diversity and the fight against exclusion,
Discrimination and social inequality.
“In an intercultural society prevention and sanctions are
Discriminatory and exclusive rights such as racism or gender inequality, in order to
To enable encounter and dialogue , to affirm personal or collective identities
And to enrich them mutually. “
Racism and all forms of discrimination are questioned. It is proposed to prevent and
Discriminatory and exclusionary practices as a way of promoting dialogue and good
Coexistence, respecting and affirming diverse identities.
“All persons, regardless of their gender identity, have the
Potential for learning and developing fully. Equality of
Gender refers to the equal valuation of different behaviors,
Aspirations and needs of women and men. In a situation of equality
Rights, duties and opportunities do not depend on
Gender identity and, therefore, they all have the same conditions and
Possibilities to exercise their rights. “
It is proposed that education be a means of transformation where men and women have
equal opportunities. Gender equality is recognized as a component of
Essential for real equality in the exercise of the right to education.
“The student knows and values his body, his way of feeling, of thinking and of
Act from the recognition of the different identities that define it
(Historical, ethnic, social, sexual, cultural, gender, among others) as a product
Of the continuous interactions between individuals and the different contexts in the
That develop (family, school, community). “Page 30
People are encouraged to be the primary agents of their own care. The
Development of the personality centered on positive values and the assumption of
Responsibilities. Self-knowledge and self-acceptance as a means of
Construction of personal identity, also influenced by collective interactions.
“To live the sexuality of a full and responsible way is to become aware of itself
Same as man or woman, starting from the development of his corporal image, of
Their sexual and gender identity, and through the exploration and evaluation of their
body. It involves establishing equal relations between women and men, as well as
As harmonious and violence-free affective relationships. It also implies
Identify and practice self-care behaviors in situations that
Endanger their well-being or that they violate their sexual and
Reproductive systems. “
Respecting the recognition of one’s own body, self-acceptance and respect for others
In the development of potentialities, skills and competences. We value the full experience and
Responsible for sexuality as a human right, forming an important part of the free
Development of identity. Affective-sexual relationships based on equality are proposed, the
Self-care and good treatment.
“There are behaviors that include ethical elements of respect for
Rights, without discrimination by gender or sexual orientation and without
Violence. “Page 31
The need to promote behaviors and attitudes that respect
Rights of all and eradicate discrimination and violence. It is proposed
A coexistence based on equality and diversity.
- The new National Curriculum for Basic Education approved by MINEDU promotes gender equality (equality between men and women) and human rights. It proposes an education based on principles and values such as equality, diversity, non-discrimination, peace and democracy to form free, autonomous, critical and responsible and build a more inclusive and equitable Peru.
- To be against the guiding principles contained in the new curriculum means to promote hatred, discrimination and violence and to deny human rights.
In defense of public education, free from interference of any kind and interests outside the development, well-being and full exercise of human rights of children and adolescents