Elsa Fought Gender Inequality and Became a Leader for Indigenous Women in Peru

February 16, 2015

Elsa is making the impossible possible.

Elsa Cárdenas Reynaga is President of The Organization of Indigenous Women of Laramate in Peru. Here is her story:

I will start saying that eight years ago I started as a leader, and in this path nothing has been easy for me. Very often indigenous women’s organizations have not had the support of the authorities, and very rarely that of our spouses.

The Organization of Indigenous Women of Laramate (OMIL) has had a long process, which was also very reflexive. When we started it all, they told us that we wouldn’t be able to, that we are women, that we were crazy, that we were involving ourselves in the things of men. That memory makes me sad, but at the same time makes me happy; it makes me laugh.

We women feel in our skin the problems of every woman, such as machismo and domestic violence. Often our children are undernourished, and we don’t have something to fill our pot with. These are my worries as a leader.

So as there is sadness, there is also happiness. In this journey we have learned how to talk, defend our rights, suggest our own projects, and, above all, demand that we are recognized and respected as women.

We women can do anything; we just are lacking in decision and choice. In us is the ability to change our lives, think differently, that in spite of the difficulties, there are things that we can do that will depend on us coming together as women.

As leader of OMIL, I feel very happy and content upon seeing that my sisters now have their gardens, are selling cheese, that they have enough to buy things in shops. I know this is small, but it’s something. And above all else, there is something to eat.

As the organization OMIL, we have participated in many spaces (Global Conference of Indigenous Women of the Americas, the Departmental Federation of Mothers’ and Women’s Clubs of Ayacucho (FEDECMA)’s Congress, the Working Table for Development in the District of Laramate and participatory budgeting). In each space we bring potential proposals and suggestions. These spaces have allowed me to learn a lot, and see a distant future, but it will depend on our working together and united, as women.

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