Throughout my travels in the Cusco region over the years, I have always remarked on the women that I see toiling in the agricultural fields in the Sacred Valley, for example, as I pass by in a van on the way to my next MLP hiking adventure. What always strikes me is how they work all day in the sun-drenched countryside wearing full traditional Andean costume—layers of colorfully woven wool skirts, typical Andean bowler hats (which are actually very chic if you think about it), wool tights and socks, and a combination of crew neck sweaters and cardigans that would make any fashionista proud.
In general, I would say that when one thinks of rural life, the picture that comes to mind is of the men in the community working in the fields and tending to the livestock while the women focus on the household, preparing meals, and taking care of the children. However, having spent time observing actual Andean daily life has reminded me that women are often the unsung heroines of the story.
This year the United Nations’ theme for the International Day of Rural Women on October 15th is ‘Sustainable Infrastructure, Services, and Social Protection for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls’. Let’s face it; we still live in a patriarchal society, even in first-world countries, where feminism and the fight for gender equality has been a heavy topic for over fifty years. But in rural communities around the world, gender equality has also become relevant because, as it turns out, rural women are carrying a significant part of the workload when it comes to sustainability, and farming in particular. “Women farmers may be as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts, but are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high-value agrifood chains and obtain lower prices for their crops.” http://www.un.org/en/events/ruralwomenday/
Many of MLP’s past Andean social development projects have been focused on the women of these communities and their invaluable contributions to the sustainability of their local agriculture, livelihood, and households. In some villages like Choquecancha in the Lares region, the expert textile weavers are actually all women who are making a mark by becoming meaningful participants in Peru’s artisan textile trade market. Nevertheless, women and girls in this and other neighboring villages throughout the region are still considered as secondary voices next to their male counterparts, relegated to ‘supporting’ cultural roles and often without access to any formal education, for example. Therefore, we at MLP feel that the UN initiative is especially relevant in our continued efforts to engender social change and inclusiveness. Aside from any campaigns that we undertake along with our NGO, Yanapana Peru , we have incorporated the opportunity for our guests to meet and see first-hand how valuable these women have become. Come join us on one of our MLP Adventures and see for yourself!