"At the age of 18 I was the first female leader in my organisation, my grandfather who was a male chauvinist demanded that I be beaten because I was sitting among men," said Teresita Antazú, an indigenous leader of the Yanesha people in Peru's Amazon region.
At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the "ayni" and "minka".
Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon.
“The day will come when people do not have to go to the cities to overcome poverty," says Elmer Pinares, mayor of an Andean highlands municipality in Cuzco, in southern Peru, where malnutrition and lack of support for subsistence farming are among the main problems.
Potatoes were first taken out of Peru, where they originated, 458 years ago to feed the world. Half a millennium later, potatoes have spread throughout the planet but there are challenges to preserve the crop’s biodiversity as a source of food security, as well as the rights of the peasants who sustain this legacy for humanity.
The political crisis triggered in Peru by the presidential pardon of former president Alberto Fujimori granted on Christmas Eve casts a shadow of doubt over what actions will be taken to curb violence against women in this country, where 116 femicides were registered in 2017, and which ranks eighth with respect to gender-related murders in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Veiled and direct threats, defamation, criminalisation of activism, attacks on their private lives, destruction of property and assets needed to support their families, and even murder are some forms of gender violence that extend throughout Latin America against women defenders of rights.
In a remote village in the Peruvian Andes, Bonificia Huamán managed to overcome adverse weather conditions with a small greenhouse, where she grows vegetables at 3,533 metres above sea level. This has improved her family’s diet, which she is very proud of.
When the crops in her rural highlands community in southern Peru were covered with a thick layer of ice one night, Felícitas Quispe, 43, organised her neighbours to make an effort to keep people from starving to death.
For ages, rural women in the Peruvian highlands have been selecting and storing seeds, ensuring their preservation. But the authorities have failed to tap into this storehouse of knowledge and experience, despite the contributions it could make to the design of effective policies for adaptation to climate change, which poses a growing threat to the women’s livelihoods.
This year’s unusually rainy season in Peru is having a negative effect on the wellbeing and health of women in rural areas who are forced, for example, to spend three times as much time walking to collect firewood and water. But the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to the problems they face.
"This year the freeze killed my crops, our small livestock died, and now I can't even sleep because I'm worried sick thinking about how to put food on my family's table, since I'm a widow," said Rosaura Huatay, an indigenous farmer in Peru's northern Andes highlands.