For the last six months, Cuso International volunteer Tania Guilbert has been running a volunteer program for the Manuela Ramos Movement, a feminist organization promoting gender equality and working to advance women’s rights in Peru. Her mandate is to create and manage a volunteer program designed to encourage young women to step forward, reach into their creativity and make sure they are heard.
Born to a Canadian father and Peruvian mother, Tania grew up in the province of Quebec, Canada. Driven by a desire to learn more about her roots, she completed a six-month work placement in Peru as part of her Social Work studies. That is where she not only rediscovered aspects of her heritage but, also, met her future husband. After five years in Montreal, they decided to return and live in Peru with their son.
These years spent in Peru fuelled both her aspiration to become involved in a feminist organization and her passion for this particular struggle. When Cuso International offered her this assignment at the very heart of the Manuela Ramos Movement, she knew it was made for her.
Although there have been several advances made in the areas of women’s and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights, Tania is well aware of the danger of those gains becoming eroded. A law protecting LGBT communities against violence has been suppressed; a campaign against comprehensive sexual education in schools has been launched… all in all, the pressures applied by certain groups are now showing a negative impact.
“It’s a somewhat dangerous time for us: a time of fear for us as women, as individuals and as an organization because such a loss of ground can happen very easily – hence the importance of getting young people on board and informed about these issues.”
For several weeks, Tania has organized weekly workshops on different topics for young Peruvian women aged 20 to 30. These workshops function as opportunities for both sharing and discussion. According to Tania, it is this environment of communication and exchange that the girls most appreciate. Discussion groups, such as these, are rare in Lima.
And which aspect of her volunteer placement is her favourite? Her learning curve. Each week she designs workshops and activities, and researches different topics and concepts. It is a side of her work that not only enriches her professionally but, also, takes her into a deeper understanding of what it is to be a feminist.
“It hasn’t been that long since I began defining myself as a feminist, or that feminism has been this present in my life. However, I really do feel it and I also feel I have something to bring to the table. It brings value to me as a person and makes me feel I have accomplished something.”
Tania hopes to continue contributing to societal change: “I want people to be freer in their choices and in the way they express those choices; and I want women to feel safe on the streets.” For her, being a feminist includes fighting to change attitudes and raising the awareness.
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Interested in seeing Peru yourself? Join Cuso International for a Charity Challenge Trek of Machu Picchu!