The day before International Women’s Day, HOOP’s social worker Silvia Mattiuzzi received a phone call. Nothing special, but when she hung up, she said: “They’re gonna give me an award tomorrow at the municipality ceremony for International Women’s Day!”
The next morning, I arrived at the event with HOOP’s Communications Director, Tom to join hundreds of women who had descended on the venue to hear what Arequipa’s authorities would say about gender equality (and to cheer for Silvia as she received her award).
Having been to a women’s rally in Arequipa before, my expectations weren’t too high. On that occasion, we heard about reducing violence against women from predominantly male speakers. We didn’t hear much at all from anyone who actually experienced gender discrimination.
Unfortunately, this time it was pretty similar. A man on stage was hosting the event, generously thanking all the women for their presence, before another man entered the stage. He was some kind of ‘comedian’, giving a motivational speech and making the audience stand up to say: “I’m beautiful, I’m valuable” and thanking the women for cooking, washing clothes, bearing children, and being beautiful. It was supposed to be funny.
Finally, after one hour of being ‘entertained’, eighteen women were invited onstage to receive a beautiful certificate and a rose from Arequipa’s mayor for their work in women’s empowerment.
Silvia was one of them, but she wasn’t given the opportunity to share her thoughts (like none of the awarded women), so let’s give her the stage right here.
Silvia, what does it mean to you to be honoured for the work you’ve done in the past year?
It was a nice symbolic reward for the effort I and all of HOOP have dedicated to working with the women in Flora Tristán. But the actual reward for me is seeing the small changes in this community, because it makes me believe that one day even big changes in society will happen.
How did you enjoy the ceremony?
This comedian was terrible and kept talking for one hour. There were eighteen women that could have said something profound, and I prepared a provocative speech. I wanted to ask if it’s really a day to celebrate and to be happy – or if we should take the chance to remember those who fought for the cause of women before. And furthermore, on a day like this we need to remember that there is still a glaring gender inequality and violence against women. We should be looking at what still has to be done!
In what way is HOOP’s work supporting women in Flora Tristán?
It was a big step for the community when we started to offer social work and psychological support. First, we support women in a vulnerable position, who may have been abused in many ways – psychologically, sexually and economically. And by organizing group meetings and raising awareness, we want to empower Flora Tristán’s women to become leaders in their own community. Our goal is to make them more independent and develop a critical mindset to enable them to teach other women as well.
If you could give an award to a woman you know, who would it be?
First of all, I have a lot respect for the mothers in Flora Tristán, especially the single moms. Not only do they raise their children and have to take care of their education, but also have to guarantee an income by working hard. That is a great responsibility. And then, as a social worker, Mary Ellen Richmond impresses me a lot. She was a pioneer in social work, writing an influential book and helped to professionalize social work. And she was really committed to working among impoverished people in New York.
HOOP’s social work program is working closely with vulnerable women throughout the year. The cost of one hour-long home visit from our certified social worker, Silvia, is just $3. You can help by sponsoring one session by making a $3 donation here:
Written by Daniel Fetzer, HOOP’s Social Work Intern.