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At a glance: Peru

A former victim of domestic violence advocates for gender equality in Peru

© UNICEF Peru/2007/Ursula
Luzmila and her son at María Parado de Bellido Square in Ayacucho, Peru, before the local presentation of UNICEF’s report on gender equality, ‘The State of the World's Children 2007’. Luzmila’s mask says ‘Break the silence’ in Spanish.

By Elsa Ursula

The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child is the theme of the 51st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women now under way until 9 March 2007. Here is one in a series of related stories.

AYACUCHO, Peru, 27 February 2007 – Luzmila cannot finish smiling, for her tears immediately appear. She is sitting in her office in Jesús Nazareno municipality, recalling the times in her childhood when she saw her mother hiding under a table to flee her father’s heavy hands.

“I grew up a rebel, wanting to run from home to avoid seeing my father battering my mother,” she says. “But when I was 15, I got pregnant and my child’s father disappeared.”

Against all obstacles, Luzmila, an outstanding student, continued attending high school. But when her pregnancy became obvious, she was not allowed to finish her studies.

“It was very hard for me,” she continues. “Everyone turned their back on me, but I always remembered my mother telling me that I should never bear abuse.”

Escape from domestic violence

A few years later, after she had been married, Luzmila was invited to attend the ‘Vaso de Leche’ child nutrition programme in her area.

“As I was going to receive free milk for my children, my new husband agreed to let me go,” she says. “I have always strived for the better in organizing women. Maybe that was why, after some time, I was appointed leader of my zone and then district representative. My husband did not like it anymore.”

When Luzmila arrived home one day, her husband began beating and kicking her. “I remember ending up under the table,” she says. “That’s when I remembered my mother. I was just like her, trying to escape from my father’s beating. I realized I had to end that.”

© UNICEF Peru/2007/Ursula
Indigenous women from Jesús Nazareno municipality enter the main square where ‘The State of the World's Children 2007’ was presented.

Empowered to help others

To gain independence, Luzmila began studying to be an administrative assistant and took a course in social work sponsored by the municipality. She went on to initiate several projects for the advancement of women – and saw them become reality.

Luzmila now works in the Jesús Nazareno Social Work Office, where she focuses on helping mothers and children.

“It has been a long and difficult way to reach the position I am in now,” she notes. “I have suffered discrimination for many years because I was a single mother. I have been through family violence, but knowing I am worthy helped me to reach forward.”

Equality leads to change

Luzmila was one of the organizers of UNICEF Peru’s presentation of the flagship report on gender equality, The State of the World’s Children 2007, in Ayacucho earlier this month. She sang and danced together with 100 women from her district while entering the city’s main plaza.

UNICEF Representative in Peru Guido Cornale spoke at the event, underlining the importance of gender equality.

“When women are healthy, educated and free to grab life’s opportunities, their children grow,” he said. “And they obtain all this by breaking the silence towards abuse, exploitation and discrimination. It means speaking up before domestic, social violence and violence in the job. That is the starting point for the change every society needs.”



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