Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ayacucho - Part 1

This is a big week!  I am going on a field trip organised by a section of MIMDES that administers the 'Program Nacional contra la Violencia familiar y Sexual'. Family violence against and sexual abuse of women is a huge ongoing issue in this macho society and there are many streams within this large national program. 

Violence against women is rooted in women's lack of power in relationships and in society relative to men. In many societies, women are expected to be submissive and sexually available to their husbands at all times. The World Health Organisation ((WHO) puts abuse by a partner at 11%  in provincial Peru, but I am told that in reality a substantially larger proportion of women experiences (sexual) violence.

I am introduced to Betty, the Director of an integrated program to combat violence supported by CTB ~ Belgian Development Agency which is the equivalent of AusAid ~ in the Ayacucho region. Phase 1 of the program started in 2005 in 4 of the 11 provinces of Ayacucho ~ also the name of the capital city ~ with violence prevention, awareness raising, training of social workers and police, fostering collaboration between prevention agencies, and supporting the pathway from violence to entrepreneurship. It is the latter component that will be my focus in Ayacucho.

Ayacucho is 500 kms south east from Lima in the south-central sierra of the Andes and the mode of transport to get there is either on a small plane, which leaves at 5:00 AM or an overnight bus. I am told buses and roads are quite good and safe, so I opt for the 10 hrs bus ride. Compared to Bangladesh, the Cruz del Sur bus is sheer luxury! There is only a small but... Ayacucho is 2.746 metres above sea level and the bus driver has to shift gear on every corner as the bus crawls up the winding mountain road. It doesn't do much for sleeping but beats looking down into the steep valley worrying about a big bus on a small mountain road..

Cruz del Sur bus
But it's all worth it when I get there in the morning. Founded in 1540 Ayacucha is a remarkable colonial settlement known as  the"Ciudad de las Iglesias" (city of the churches) for its 33 churches ~ which represent each year of Jesus' life ~ and beautiful buildings. My hotel is in a prime location, looking out over Ayacucha's main square Plaza de Armas. 

Plaza de Armas

The handicrafts of Ayacucho are some of the finest in Peru and apparently admired all over the world.  I am slated to visit several women-led handicraft associations as well as a guinea pig farming cooperative. There is a fair bit to cover and rather than cram it all into this blog, I will post a couple more blogs on Ayacucho in the days to come, so stay tuned. 


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