In May 2018, I had the opportunity to work 3 weeks with women in the slums of Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru. Many of these women left their villages to move to Arequipa in hope of finding work and better economic opportunities for their families. Unfortunately, too many end up living on the outskirts of Arequipa and are struggling to earn a living day in day out. I was based in Arequipa but traveled to Flora Tristan to deliver the training which was about 45 minutes away, however, it was such a big contrast. It is clear that this is a poor area, with an open rubbish dump and lots of stray dogs welcoming you in the area. The houses are very basic, most without toilets, running water or electricity. Sadly, this area is also known to have a high level of domestic violence, hence very difficult for women and children to leave and break this cycle of violence.
I was a bit apprehensive to work on this project, however, I was totally focusing on the women and making sure to provide a safe environment for them. 30 women attended all the workshops, they were usually waiting for us when we arrived and were fully participating in our activities. I was surprised to see how engaged they were in the workshops, how dedicated they were to do their homework and as well, their level of openness. Our workshops are very interactive and include many sharing activities, I was astonished to see how many shared their deeply personal stories and were there to support each other.
I focused on building their confidence, positive thinking and as well, taking control of their finances. On the last day, in their verbal feedback, many told me they were more positive and optimistic to create a better future for their families because of our workshops… I left feeling totally inspired and in admiration their courage and strengths.