Sierra Strong

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th every year. It is a day to recognize the strengths and contributions that women bring to the world we live in, but also a day to bring attention to the gap that still exists in gender equality around the world. Given the fact that I live in a fairly conservative town that is located a 3 hour trip up in the mountains, I wasn’t expecting the town to do much as a whole, as sexism is still a very large issue. I had planned to do some activities with some girls in my neighborhood and contribute that way, but was shocked when one of my counterparts invited me to the “El Día Internacional de La Mujer” event located in my town. Several local organizations were partnering up for a march around town, as well as an event after to honor women leaders in the community. I was ecstatic and I am so glad I participated.

We began the morning by participating in the march with several community organizations including the local & regional government, the school board, several students, women leaders in the community, CEM (an organization to help women (and men) who are victims of abuse), and various community members. After the march, we gathered in the theatre to hear various leaders speak, as well as honor women leaders in the community.

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Photo courtesy of Municipalidad Provincia Santiago de Chuco

It was a day I will never forget. I was marching alongside 500 other women who varied in age from 5 – 85 years old. Some women had not studied past elementary school, while others held a Masters Degree. Some lived in small neighboring towns (caseríos) and traveled 2 hours to attend, while others came from just down the road in the “big” city (aka my site, which I am beginning to see as a big city after visiting caseríos, haha). Some live in extreme poverty, while others took pictures with their iPhones. But in that moment, none of that mattered, we were all there for the same reason. Gender equality.

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The women that I have met here in the sierra (mountains) of Peru are some of the strongest women I have met in my life. It’s a strength that is hard to put into words, but after living here for 8 months, it’s evident throughout my town. So cheers to the women of Santiago de Chuco, Perú, and the world. Let us continue to demonstrate how strong we are, not just one day of the year, but everyday.

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