Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Women and Power: Towards a World of Equality: From Peru to Guatemala and throughout the Hemisphere, Women Are Meeting Challenges and Increasing Opportunities in Their Quest for Better Ways of Life: The Warrior Women of Peru

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Women and Power: Towards a World of Equality: From Peru to Guatemala and throughout the Hemisphere, Women Are Meeting Challenges and Increasing Opportunities in Their Quest for Better Ways of Life: The Warrior Women of Peru

Article excerpt

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executives, businesswomen, social entrepreneurs. In Peril a whole new group of women has emerged and is working to be an example for their lower income sisters. Their first achievements are already coming to light.

In August of 1979, Liliana Mayo made use of her father's garage to open a center for what some people call "disabled" children. Mayo, who has a doctorate in Special Education. prefers to say that her students have "different abilities." Today she runs the Ann Sullivan Center. whose teaching methods are a reference point for similar programs around the world Although she has received Spain's Queen Sofia Award for her work, Mayo insists that the real recognition should go to the mothers of these children.

The Ann Sullivan Center is unique in that it, provides assistance to low income families, After decades of work, Mayo has been able to observe a cruel fact: men tend to abandon the family when their children are born with austism or Down syndrome. This knowledge is part. of what underlies Mayo's great respect for the mothers of the children in her center.

In late May 2008, however, the mothers and children of the center gave a heartfelt tribute to a group that was introduced as "Mujeres Batalla" (Warrior Women ), To pill the stow in perspective, we have to go back in time. Six years ago, Peril was not attracting many investors and no one. could foresee the culinary boom that was to occur. Apathy was the prevailing sentiment, and Peruvians continued to dream about crossing the border to find a better future. At least that what it seemed like.

In the midst of this gloomy period, an interview column appeared in the El Comercio newspaper. The column was titled "Ejecutivas" [Women Executives] and it showcased the inspiring stories of well-known, and unknown, women executives, business leaders, and social entrepreneurs.

In general, the media had a reputation for responding to the perceived demand for stories about political scandals, police cases, sports, and celebrities, so the interview column in question was a bit of a rarity. The journalist in charge of the column was feeling a sense of dissatisfaction himself as a Peruvian citizen, and he turned his malaise into questions. What ended up happening was that week after week, the women he interviewed showed him that in spite of everything, there were plenty of reasons to be hopeful; that Peru was more than its politics, and that hundreds of anonymous heroes were working in silence everyday without expecting anything from the government.

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A year after the column began, the journalist received an email from a reader thanking him and telling him that she had been collecting the interviews for her youngest daughter. He wrote back and asked how old the little girl was, and the reader responded saying that her daughter was just nine days old. It was then that the journalist realized he had to take another step with his work.

He selected the interviews that he thought would be most inspiring to the public and published the book Mujeres Batalla (Editorial Norma). It became a best-seller and today is part of the curriculum in high schools, universities, and business schools. At that point, the journalist believed his work was completed. (He didn't know that there are consequences when you get involved with Mujeres Batalla.)

The day the book was launched something extraordinary happened. Many of the women who were interviewed for the column showed up for the event and they met each other. They were from different hometowns and races and economic backgrounds, but they all identified with each other because they had something in common: consciously or unconsciously, they were all doing something good for their country.

In the midst of all the celebration, Liliana Mayo, the psychologist who founded the Ann Sullivan Center, invited the women to her school so that the children and the mothers there could meet and pay tribute to the Mujeres Batalla. …

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