"We are not asking for money, but for our health, for a dignified life," is the cry of the people of Choropampa, which lawyer Milagros Pérez continually hears 22 years after the environmental disaster that occurred in this town in the department of Cajamarca, in Peru´s northern Andes highlands, on the afternoon of Jun. 2, 2000.
"Water is part of our culture, it is intrinsic to the Amazon," said José Manuyama, a member of a river defense committee in his native Requena, a town located in the department of Loreto, the largest in Peru, covering 28 percent of the national territory.
Women entering the political arena in Peru face multiple obstacles due to gender discrimination that hinders their equal participation, which can even reach the extreme of political harassment and bullying, in an attempt to force them out of the public sphere.
"Pachamama (Mother Earth) is upset with all the damage we are doing to her," says Hilda Roca, an indigenous Peruvian farmer from Cusipata, in the Andes highlands of the department of Cuzco, referring to climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on her life and her environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not hit everyone equally and employment has shown a clear gender-differentiated impact. Two years after the start of the pandemic, it is more difficult for women than men to recover their jobs, and this is clearly reflected in Latin America.
It's nine o'clock in the morning and Mauricia Rodríguez is already peeling garlic to season the day's lunch at the Network of Organized Women of Villa Torreblanca, one of more than 2,400 solidarity-based soup kitchens that have emerged in the Peruvian capital in response to the worsening poverty caused by the partial or total halt of economic activities in the country due to COVID-19.
"When I was a little girl we didn't suffer from water shortages like we do now. Today we are experiencing more droughts, our water sources are drying up and we cannot sit idly by," Kely Quispe, a small farmer from the community of Huasao, located half an hour from Cuzco, the capital of Peru's ancient Inca empire, told IPS.
"The level of injustice in the world cannot go on like this…I am not pessimistic about the future," said Gladys Acosta, president of the CEDAW Committee, in an interview with IPS in the Peruvian capital.
Despite significant legal advances in Latin American countries to address gender-based violence, it continues to be a serious challenge, especially in a context of social crisis aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic, which hits women especially hard.
"During the pandemic, sexual violence against girls has grown because they have been confined with their abusers. If the home is not a safe place for them, what is then, the streets?" Mía Calderón, a young activist for sexual and reproductive rights in the capital of Peru, remarks with indignation.
In the highlands near the capital of Peru, more than 3,000 metres above sea level, ageold water recovery techniques are being used to improve access to water for 1,400 families, for household consumption and for crops and livestock.
A communally built small dam at almost 3,500 meters above sea level supplies water to small-scale farmer Cristina Azpur and her two young daughters in Peru's Andes highlands, where they face water shortages exacerbated by climate change.
It's eight o'clock in the morning and Pascuala Ninantay is carrying two large containers of water in her wheelbarrow to prepare with neighbouring women farmers 200 litres of organic fertiliser, which will then be distributed to fertilise their crops, in this town in the Andes highlands of Peru.
Women in Latin America earn one-fifth less than men for every hour worked, on average - one of the statistics that reflect the continuing inequality in the world of work that makes it unlikely for the region to meet the goal of equal pay by 2030.
Peru began the year with 11 femicides in January, despite progress made in laws and statutes and mass demonstrations against gender-based violence. This situation is also seen in other Latin American countries, raising the need to delve deeper into the causes of the phenomenon.
Research and campaigns by women’s rights advocates are beginning to focus on the problem of Latin American girls under the age of 14 who are forced to bear the children of their rapists, with the lifelong implications that entails and without the protection of public policies guaranteeing their human rights.
Thirty families from a rural community more than 4,300 meters above sea level will have warm houses that will protect them from the freezing temperatures that each year cause deaths and diseases among children and older adults in this region of the southeastern Peruvian Andes.
Young Peruvians plan to take advantage of the knowledge acquired in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast to bring water to segments of the population who suffer from shortages, after sharing experiences in that ecoregion on the multiple uses of renewable energies in communities affected by climatic phenomena.
Rural women in Latin America play a key role with respect to attaining goals such as sustainable development in the countryside, food security and the reduction of hunger in the region. But they remain invisible and vulnerable and require recognition and public policies to overcome this neglect.
"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".