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PERU: Among Thousands of Voices, My Voice Grows Stronger

Enmita Marin
Posted September 8, 2016 from Peru

Enmita

Marin reports back from a historic march against gender-based violence in Peru.

“It was the biggest march I’ve seen in Peru in my lifetime.

On August 13th, I joined tens of thousands of people marching through the streets of Lima to call the attention of the Peruvian government and judiciary system to the violence against women in our country.

The four friends I had planned to march with grew into a group of 11 women when we came across other friends from work, from our neighborhood, even past jobs, on our way to the gathering point. We were ready to start marching at 3:30pm, but there were so many people ahead of us, we could barely move.

“No is NO!” we yelled, making a single voice with the people around us. “I said no to you. What part of it didn’t you get? Was it the ‘N’ or was it the ‘O’?!”

As we yelled this motto over and over again, it reverberated with increasing intensity through the crowd. I saw a mother teaching her little girls how to yell and cheer other women on. I saw a little boy carrying a banner with the message: “My mother didn’t raise a male chauvinist!” embellished with Pokémon pictures. I regretted not having taken my baby boy with me, so that he could see the power of people protesting for justice, for equal rights, and for a stop to violence.

This march was an extension of a public outcry on social media under the hashtag #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less). Two recent cases in particular have brought violence against women into the spotlight in Peru.

Arlette Contreras was chased, beaten, and dragged all over the floor of a hotel lobby while being pulled by the hair by her ex-boyfriend in front of security cameras and the staff of the hotel. The judges’ verdict: It wasn’t attempted rape, the injuries sustained by the plaintiff were minor, and it should be taken into consideration that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. And so, he was released.

In another case, the image of a young woman, Lady Guillén, was shared widely after her former boyfriend punched her in the face repeatedly, bit her eyebrows, and crashed her head against the walls.He too was released from jail.

The march was organized to protest these cases and every single case of violence against women that didn’t get justice, all those cases which were ignored by the police, and all the instances in which women lost their lives at the hands of their abusers. We marched to say we are here, we know our rights, and we want justice!

It was the biggest march I’ve seen in Peru in my lifetime. Police estimated 50,000 people attended while organizers estimate hundreds of thousands.Taxi drivers said to us that they had never seen so many people on the streets for a single cause, and journalists covered the event on four or five different TV channels.

Our voices were loud as we chanted: “What do we want???”… ”JUSTICE!”… “And when do we want it???”… “NOW!”…

One of the most significant moments wasn’t a shouted slogan, but a powerful silence. A group of women came to Lima all the way from the Peruvian highlands dressed in their traditional polleras and ponchos. As I read their signs it dawned on me that they were victims of the forced sterilization inflicted by the government of Peru on thousands of women in the ‘90s.

These brave women walked in silence, and from time to time one of them blew a kind of horn that we call a pututu. Every time the horn was blown, I got goose bumps all over my skin and my heart was overwhelmed: I wanted to get close to them, give them a big hug, and tell them that I’m really sorry.

I appreciated that my friend was there with me because otherwise, I would have probably started crying, remembering how many times I didn’t fight for my rights because I let fear get the best of me; remembering all those times I allowed someone to call me “silly” or “stupid”; remembering the times I failed to speak up whenever someone took my work and success as his or her own.

I hope to have one ounce of the strength that those women showed in their silent walk. This march helped me remember that I am not alone: I am surrounded by other women who also want justice for themselves, for their children, and for their friends; above all, it reminds me that I should never ever let anyone inflict any kind of damage upon me.

If a few women can walk in silence and inspire awe, imagine the power that all of us— writing, talking, and screaming—can wield.

Above: Video of the march from Enmita

Comments 11

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Ahhdg
Sep 09, 2016
Sep 09, 2016

Hi Enmita,

I get the same feeling as you heard the sound of pututu when I read your article. That's the power of words I think. Thank you for sharing this historical march to us, and I believe your article can transmit the same power to more women all around the world just as the march. We are all together.

April

Enmita Marin
Sep 09, 2016
Sep 09, 2016

Hi April, thanks for your words. 

Did you know that In precolombine culture the sound of pututu it was used to "call to war" and also to "call the strongest spirits"... so, i believe that this is what happend to me, so i can wrote this. 

Thanks.

Chelsea Maricle
Sep 12, 2016
Sep 12, 2016

Dear Enmita Marin,

Thank you for sharing your story and your video with us! It is very exciting to see so many women from so many different backgrounds uniting together to march in Peru for their rights. I am glad that you were able to have this experience and hope that the sound of pututu will continue calling forward your inner strength to stand up and speak out.

In solidarity,

Chelsea

Enmita Marin
Sep 12, 2016
Sep 12, 2016

Hi Chelsea

thanks for your words, it was a powerful experience and i hope all the women in my country will feel this calling over and over again and keep fighting for our righst. 

thanks for your support.

Funmi
Sep 12, 2016
Sep 12, 2016

Thank you Enmita for sharing this story, alotof time we allow people to just walk over us all in the name of being nice or not wanting to create bad feelings with people. But like those women who protested in silence with their pututu and still making such profound statement. We all need to find a way of making our feelings known.

Enmita Marin
Sep 12, 2016
Sep 12, 2016

Hi Funmi

yes there is so much injustices against women, according to stadistic 33% of peruvian women has suffer from phisical violence, that is a lot consideren that this is data taken from denounces, so what about the one who doesnt denounce the abuse? 

i am agree with you Funmi, i hope that we all can find a way to show out our feeling and protest for our rights.

K C Milan
Sep 13, 2016
Sep 13, 2016

No doubt this s an inspirational writing for women all over the world  

Enmita Marin
Sep 19, 2016
Sep 19, 2016

Yes Kcmilan it was a great event!

libudsuroy
Sep 19, 2016
Sep 19, 2016

Congratulations for bringing forth in your story the power of one, the power of many as well as the essence of solidarity & the lessons of positive activism and peace building. May you continue to stand with other women for women's rights , for beneficial change in your community and to end violence in our world and in our time.

ARREY- ECHI
Sep 20, 2016
Sep 20, 2016

This story resonates with this saying "united we stand and divided we fall" there is no doubt that when women unite as one, justice will be felt. Thank you for sharing such a powerful story.

www.joy2endure.com

Feka
Dec 04, 2016
Dec 04, 2016

Thanks for sharing. I see and feel the strength  of women. We are super strong together