Closing the Gender Gap in Peru

With International Women’s Day taking place tomorrow, in this week’s blog we’re
putting the spotlight on women’s issues and progress towards gender equality in

What are the traditional gender roles in Peru?

Traditionally men and women in Peru and Latin America have conformed
to ‘machismo’ and ‘marianismo’ gender roles. ‘Machismo’ is the idea that men
are supposed to be seen as the head of the household and expected to live up to
strong, masculine characteristics. For women, marianismo characteristics
reflect femininity, modesty, purity, faithfulness and submissiveness.
But do modern Peruvians still conform to these gender roles?
While there is huge diversity within the country, machismo and marianismo
ideals are still very much alive, especially outside of the cosmopolitan urban
areas and in more traditional communities.
The existence of these roles is troublesome as it creates a
divide between women and men. The kinds of issues that can arise from
traditional gender roles are widely documented, and are by no means restricted
to Latin America. Women all over the world tend to shoulder the burden of care
for the young and elderly, take on the majority of household work, earn less
money, and are more likely to live in poverty. Issues such as violence against
women and child marriage infringe on human rights and stop women from living
secure, fulfilling and happy lives. Worryingly, figures from the World Health
Organisation show that 49% of women in provincial Peru have been subjected to physical
violence from a partner, and this could be partly a consequence of the machismo
vs marianismo gender roles.

Are things changing?

Fortunately, things are changing. Women’s groups are doing
great work across the country towards creating a fairer gender culture based on
equality. There is also evidence that the gender gap is closing.
According to the ‘Global Gender Gap Report’, which tracks gender based
disparities and progress, Peru has jumped up 35 places since 2013.  This shows signs of truly meaningful advances
in a number of sectors such as political empowerment, health and survival, and
educational attainment.
Peru has seen new programs that hope to increase
opportunities of entrepreneurship for women, and attention is being placed on
increasing the number of female private sector workers, which has already
increased by nearly a million people since 2001. (OECD)
Positive signs can also be seen with the life expectancy of
Peruvian women rising above the global average over the past ten years. Casa
Maternas (maternal houses) have also become more common in rural areas,
supporting women who would otherwise give birth at home without a skilled
attendant. Measures such as this have the potential to drastically reduce the
number of maternal mortalities.
Closing the gender gap in education is another big challenge
in Peru, especially rural regions, where 10% more of boys are literate and  a third of girls never finish primary school.  This however is being addressed through
programs by the Peruvian government and UNESCO.
Education is something obviously close to our hearts, and
our work at HOOP is enabling more girls (and boys) in impoverished areas on the
edge of the city to be educated. 53.4% of mothers in the community didn’t
finish primary level education, and our English and business programs are
offering them a chance to enhance their skills, confidence and knowledge.
One of the HOOP mums joins the parent’s association meeting
Gender equality is increasingly being seen as one of the
keys to bringing communities out of poverty, so we aim to create an equal
playing field amongst the boys and girls, as part of our wider vision of
breaking the cycle of poverty in Flora Tristan for good.
One only needs to spend a very short amount of time at the HOOP school to see the enthusiasm and excitement for learning, where good education
is considered a luxury but should be a right!
Social change doesn’t happen overnight, and takes awareness,
compassion and advocacy from men and boys as well as women and girls. There is
still a long way to go with regards to gender equality and rights for women,
but there are definitely reasons to be optimistic for women in Peru.
Written by Oliver Adams
Images by Tom Hornbrook

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