Minga Peru was founded in 1998 in the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon. Although the Loreto region is rich in indigenous cultures and has the greatest rainforest biodiversity in the world, it is one of the most inaccessible and neglected regions of Peru. Women and families struggle with very high rates of poverty, HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse, and social injustice. Nonetheless, the inhabitants of Loreto are also resilient leaders, committed to their communities and their land. From the beginning, we established and maintained open communications with the poor and marginalized communities of Loreto. Minga’s radio show, Bienvenida Salud (“Welcome Health”) and its active engagement with community members has helped create Minga’s unique model for social change.
Bienvenida Salud has been on air for 19 consecutive years without interruption, and bases its content on listener letters, receiving over 40,000 to date. We have broadcast more than 1,700 episodes in prime time and reach over 120,000 listeners with every episode, changing public discourse on social issues such as domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, the value of gender equality, human rights, and bio-cultural preservation.
In addition to its popular radio program, Minga has trained five generations of women promoters who lead campaigns to create change in their communities These female leaders continue to train their networks of over 1,200 women, serving as role models and decision makers and mobilizing funds from local governments to support participatory community projects. Minga’s promoters also design and lead community and family-based income-generating projects – such as fisheries, agroforestry, and handicraft production — that protect and sustain natural resources while increasing food and economic security.
Minga has trained 75 young women and men (aged 12-18) as peer trainers who have conducted workshops on sexual health, reproductive rights, HIV prevention, domestic violence and healthy relationships, and conservation issues, reaching over 1,500 students in 40 rural schools. Minga’s innovative work with young people led to Minga receiving the 2014 EMpower Champions of Youth Award for exceptional youth development work.
Minga has also conducted dozens of workshops and facilitated meetings with local authorities on citizen participation and community engagement. Gradually incorporating different community members into Minga’s programs has significantly strengthened the communities’ focus on women and equality.
Nearly twenty years after its founding, Minga is an institution that has gained a high level of trust by its constituents who continue to believe in Minga and want to be part of it. They know that they will never receive gifts and that Minga will never tell them what they should do or how they should live. Instead, they will receive ideas and support about how they can play their part to contribute to the community as a whole. Minga has broken old ways of thinking, including addressing formerly taboo topics such as HIV/AIDS, family planning, sexual rights, the terrible problem of violence against women, racism, and discrimination. Minga uses the language of the people and has created ways for the voices of thousands of people to be heard. Minga helped to convince people that their voice is important and that they are capable of letting go of the internalized shame that had been taught to them from an early age.