I first met Andrea Garcia 9 years ago when she took part in one of our training courses for Promoters of Non-violence. Now, she not only helps others to become aware of their dignity and human rights but is also general co-ordinator of the government ‘Glass- of milk nutrition Programme’ in her Zone. A committed leader she accompanies and encourages many in their daily struggles and problems. She tells of her birth forty one years ago, and her early years in the North of Peru. She had little time to study because of family needs; her work in a restaurant began at 4:00 every morning. At the age of 15 she married Modesto and after a few years they moved from their native place to the Eastern Andean area of Tarapoto where again she had to labour from early morning till sunset in the harvesting of coffee for a family relative.
But, in the early nineties the terrorism of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the Army was taking its toll throughout the area, and so she, her husband and little daughter decided to move again-this time to Huaycan, a desert area on the outskirts of the capital. Leaving the green fields, the rivers and lakes for the dry rocky hills of Huaycan was a real culture jolt, but they pitched their tent among the thousands of other displaces people, and little by little began to make a living as best they could.
Before joining the Women’s Centre for Development, “Warmi Wasi”, Andrea admits to thinking that women did not have the same right as men, that their place was to accept whatever abuse or violence came their way. Only gradually did she come to realize that things could, and should, be different. Women should have the same equal rights and opportunities as men. Now Andrea is enthusiastically spreading the good news of their dignity and worth to hundreds of other women.
Visiting her recently in her home after the birth of her fourth child, she says, with a smile,” I’m happy with my family and that I am able to reach out to others, especially to the many teenage mothers all around me.”
The Women Center “Warmi Wasi” has been promoting women’s dignity, skills and the right to live without violence e, for more that 16 years. There is still much to be done, but with Andrea, the other women promoters and the professionals involved in the Project, we are discovering much hope ion the struggles and surprises of our lives together. Whether in workshops in the higher Zones, courses in the Centre, or awareness-raising campaigns, spirits are being renewed, and the commitment to justice, peace and care of ourselves, others and of the earth is strengthened daily.
Hopefully seeds of a more wholistic future are being sown for the people here.
Sr. Mary Neylon worked in the Philippines and Britain and in Peru since 1989.