The heat is intense in the Ahuayro Community in the Apurimac region. The temperature is around 32 degrees Celsius. A distinct aroma is present in the courtyard of the local school. As we move closer the smell intensifies and curiosity leads us into a corner of the kitchen of the school. There, among the yellow walls mixed with steam and smoke, sitting on a wooden bench in front of a huge pot is Lucia Quispe Cayllahua (45), a petite woman holding firmly a tablespoon, who incessantly removes the stew wheat boiling on the stove which will be the lunch for 300 children today.
Talking does not seem to be a problem for Lucia, who with a smile invites us to take a seat on wooden benches while still making sure that the food does not burn and is ready for the enjoyment of school children.
– In the gastronomy workshops I learned to prepare new foods that I did not know before. Also, I learned about pastries and how to sell them.”It was because of the workshops and my good seasoning that I was hired at school,” she recalls with a look of bliss. Lucia is a participant in the project “Women facing violence, and exercising their social, economic and political rights” which is aimed at women victims of violence. This project has been implemented in the regions of Apurimac and Ayacucho by Peace and Hope with the support of Stromme Foundation.
Earlier this year, Lucia heard Q’ali Warma (A Breakfast and Lunch National School Program directed by teh government) was offering work to women in the area of cooking lunch and breakfast for students attending public schools (March through December). It was an open call, in which many women like Lucia wishing to obtain one of the few available positions participated.
In addition to learning gastronomy in the Project, Lucia has grown as a person and their family life has also been affected positively.
– “I have learned to have confidence in myself. Now, I think and I want my life and my children’s to be better. I want to live in harmony with my family,” she says with great confidence.
– “Before I would not have dared to prepare food as a business. Now, I prepare food and I get paid for my work,” she says with a proud smile.
The project aims to strengthen the capacities of 1,497 Quechua-speaking women to exercise their rights in order to address gender violence, reducing gender gaps and exclusion. It also creates awareness and empowerment for women to overcome situations of family violence. At the same time, motivates the economic independence of women as a key factor in reducing violence against them. These two aspects are linked to the facilitation and capacity to run their small economic initiatives and further market access.
– “I learned to live a life without violence in peace with my family and my neighbors. Here we have learned to take care of our rights. We, women, are organizing ourselves to be leaders of our change, supporting each other to have a good life and family.
Quechua speaker from birth, this woman is barely literate. As a child, she only attended the first grade in elementary schoo atl Uripa in Chincheros, Apurimac. She has 2 children: Richar (19) and Jhon (9). The eldest son is studying to become an architect and the second is in fifth grade. Her husband Ricardo Carrion Mena (52), is a farmer.He cultivates local produce such as potatoes, “beans” and fruits for their own consumption.
– “Before I was just a housewife. Sometimes I knitted sweaters and blankets and embroidered tablecloths that I sold from time to time. I woudl argue with my husband because our economy was not good enough. I was bored with my family and everything was a problem,” she recalls.
During the afternoon, Lucia cleans the house, washes clothes, cooks and feeds their animals: chickens, pigs, ducks and guinea pigs. Then she brings lunch to her husband and stays on the farm helping him. She spends her weekends on the field tilling the land and reaping the products which they bring to the market on Sundays to “trade” in the village of Uripa.
When Lucia’s children grew older, her problems and discussions at home increased because of the financial issue. Her eldest son was about to finish school and he wanted to continue with higher education.
After her participation in the Project of Peace and Hope, Lucia and her family’s way of life has changed.
-” I am not ashamed to sell what I cook anymore. With the income I have, I can help in my house and my relationship with my husband has improved,” she says with a smile of satisfaction, while spinning the stew she is about to serve children.
-” My husband likes me to participate, and he motivates me to learn and work. If my husband and I have problems, we no longer argu elike before. We talked and we try to solve the problem without raising our voices. My husband has assumed the responsibility of caring for the animals, so I can work and attend the workshops,” says this mother.
Her eldest son is studying his career in Lima in a prestigious study center, because he won a scholarship. Lucia and her husband support him with his living expenses.
-” He is very studious and we are very proud of him”, says the mother.
Lucia has started planning her future.
– “We will improve the construction of our house, little by little, because my dream is to have my own restaurant here,” she shares as her eyes light up with hope.
– “I’m planning to have a job that makes me feel stronger and more confident for what I am able to do for me and my family,” Lucia concludes with a big smile.