It’s been over two years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. For rural communities in the Peruvian Amazon, this scenario has been and continues to be very challenging, dramatically impacting the lives of teenage girls. Thousands of adolescent girls in the region dropped out of school because of school closures or because they didn’t have the means to study remotely – like cellphones, electricity, or internet access. SRH services decreased, and sex education was suspended, affecting teenage girls’ development and growth. These problems exposed them to threats like human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and even sexual abuse in their communities.
But despite how chaotic this scenario seems, there is another outlook where the grass is greener. Working hand in hand with Amazonian communities for over 24 years, we have witnessed the flame that burns inside each of these girls. And that flame lies in their resilience, desire to learn and grow, and remarkable capacities to lead and build a better future.
And that’s how, through an enormous effort with women community leaders, parents, our field team, institutional allies, and supporters, we launched an initiative to provide training workshops, create radio programs, and eco-friendly income-generating projects, and thus enhance teenage girls’ leadership, autonomy, personal development, food and financial security, and the possibility to see themselves as strong, worthy, capable women.
Since the beginning of this project, we have provided support and training to 500 teenage girls in 35 Amazonian communities, working at the core with critical areas like self-esteem, self-care, and leadership. This was the first step to ensure they have the skills to build and manage their own veggies farms, which is now supporting their economy and nutrition and giving them the confidence to work on their dreams and goals.
The girls are grateful that they know now about these topics and for the fact that, for the first time, they’re leading their entrepreneurship project. Some of them were so excited that they wanted to share their lessons learned with our readers:
Reyna Moreno Pacaya, 13 y.o.
Community of Puerto Miguel
“It is my first time working on my own veggies garden. I feel very content because it is an opportunity to gain economic income in the community, and I can invest it in another project or save it. Before, I didn’t know about self-care, self-esteem, consent, having a life project, or entrepreneurship. Learning this allows me to move forward and help my community move forward. For example, there is abuse in the communities and people with bad intentions. I want to share what I learned at Minga to encourage other girls to care for themselves.”
Katya Sandi Huanuire – 16 y.o.
Community of Villa Canáan
“I’m seeing two opportunities. I’m learning at school and Minga. I love it because we learn about many things, like how to take care of ourselves, self-esteem, and moving forward through the veggies garden projects. I have changed a lot. Before, I didn’t know how to carry myself and get along, but now I do, and it helps me feel better about myself. I learned that having self-esteem is very important because before, people made me feel bad when they said bad things to me, telling me I knew nothing, and I stood quiet, thinking they were right. But now, that doesn’t affect me. I know my worth and can do anything I set my mind to, and that’s what self-esteem is about.”
Shirley Maytahuari Castro – 15 y.o.
Community of José Olaya
“I loved learning at the Minga workshops, especially about teenage pregnancy. It’s a critical topic because, in my community, many adolescent girls get pregnant, which concerns me a lot. I feel that I have more knowledge to share with other girls. I also learned to work on my veggies garden. It is the first time I have owned one, which brings me happiness. I learned how to grow and take care of my veggies. I’ve harvested cilantro, pepper, and onion. I plan to sell them and use the income to support my family.”
You can help empower more teenage girls in the Amazon, have means to overcome the challenges they’re facing, and achieve their dreams.