Mujeres que no se dejan. Women who don’t give up. That’s the name of the community radio program that reaches an estimated 4 million people across Peru. First started in January of 2019 as a way to fight violence against women in the Villa El Salvador district of Lima, the capital, the radio program now reaches eight other districts in southern Peru.
Every other Thursday, the radio hosts bring in experts, local community members, and government officials to talk about access to local resources for women who may be affected by gender-based violence and gender-based discrimination. Villa El Salvador has the highest number of cases of violence against women in all of Peru, according to data from the program’s sponsor, the United Nations Development Program. Mixy Paredes, the founder of the radio program and program coordinator for UNDP, was searching for a way that programs could directly touch the lives of community members in their own homes.
“The point of the radio program is to break the silence that surrounds violence against women,” Paredes said in Spanish in a phone interview. “The information for what they can do, especially for women who have affected by violence, arrives straight to their homes through this program.”
In Peru, 33 percent of women from the ages of 15-49 have experienced intimate partner violence, according to the United Nations Global Database on Violence Against Women. Each 60 hours, another woman in Peru dies from violence. In the district of Villa el Salvador, the UNDP conducted a study involving more than 500 women from the ages of 18-65. The researchers found that three out of four of the women had encountered violence in their lifetimes. From 2016 to 2017, the cases of reported violence against women increased 40 percent in that district. UNDP radio organizers said they had been thinking of creating a way to address the problem, and to bring specific solutions to local households.
Listeners of the radio program say that Mujeres que no se dejan is one of the few community-based initiatives specifically focused on empowering Peruvian women. Programs like it have been started in other countries, but few in Latin America, organizers said.
Milagros Huaringa, 49, is a single mother of six who lives in Lima. She listens to the radio show and said that on her favorite episode, a UN worker and the host spoke about the evolution of women in Peru as economically independent figures. For her, the episode hit home. Huaringa experienced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, she said, and her children had seen this and grown up with it. Economic and emotional independence was key in her transition to becoming a single mother, she said, and she didn’t always know where to find jobs or how to get certified for higher paying jobs.
Mujeres que no se dejan tries to connect with women just like Huaringa, who are looking for guidance in how to deal with harassment and violence. Through the episode about economic freedom, Huaringa said, she was given information about how to build a more sustainable lifestyle as a single mother, such as hearing about job opportunities for someone like her who lacked a degree in higher education because she had to focus on taking care of her kids and leaving an abusive marriage.
“The radio program opens doors for many women who, like me, are in economic limbo. It gives you the knowledge to find out about opportunities, which is essential,” Huaringa said. “As women in a very male chauvinist society here in Peru, we need to expand our horizons economically and regarding our roles in our community in order to become more empowered. This radio programs helps us do that.”
The aim of Mujeres que no se dejan is for this information to reach people more intimately in their own homes, organizers said. The UNDP programs in Peru are extensive in terms of working with public officials, but the staff of UNDP Peru said that they felt a personal connection to the community was missing.
And it’s not just women who listen to the program, either. Men like Nicolas del Castillo Hudson, a resident of Lima, say that though they may not be directly affected by gender based discrimination in Peru, they have close family members whom they want to help if anything were to happen. For del Castillo Hudson, he is most worried about any discrimination that his 80-year old grandmother may face in accessing services specifically geared towards helping seniors who have experienced gender-based violence. Though he says his grandmother hasn’t experienced anything of the sort to this day, he is nervous that it could happen as she ages.
“I think it’s important to consider the differences between dealing with elderly people and others,” del Castillo Hudson said. “I live with her, and I was worried that she may face gender-based violence, especially as she becomes older.”
So, del Castillo Hudson listened to a Mujeres que no se dejan episode that dealt with access to community services for women, and contacted the UNDP to learn more about services for elderly women specifically. Del Castillo Hudson, who is from Lima and lives about 40 minutes from Villa el Salvador, thinks that the radio is an effective and personal way to connect with the community.
“You have to keep in mind that our communities feel like these radio frequencies belong to them,” he said. “It’s party of their identity and they feel like it’s tailored specifically to them, so they are more likely to listen and take in the information.”
Mujeres que no se dejan gains a lot of traction, particularly through social media, Paredes said. The radio station where the program airs is called Stereo Villa, and episodes are recorded and posted on the radio station Facebook page. Listeners can also speak directly to the directors of the radio program through a WhatsApp group, or comment on the posts to ask more detailed questions.
“What can I do if my daughter says she feels harassed in any way by the director of her school?” one mother asked in the Facebook comments of a March radio program. Some people, like Huaringa, also share recordings of the programs onto their own Facebook pages.
UNDP organizers are also hoping to bring down the cost of the effects suffered by the survivors of gender-based violence. All programs and services to prevent gender-based violence in Villa el Salvador cost the government, community members, and the UNDP almost $73 million in 2018, according a UNDP report. A large portion of these costs fell onto the shoulders of the women directly affected by the violence—45 percent of the $73 million, UNDP estimates.
The radio program is part of a larger UNDP project called Proyecto Justa, or the Justice Project, that focuses on bringing awareness of gender-based violence through education, art, workshops, and other initiatives throughout Villa el Salvador.
“Historically, Villa el Salvador has always been a region plagued with poverty, crime, and violence,” said Maria del Carmen Sacasa, resident coordinator for the UNDP Peru. “And women are always the most affected. At least in a small way, we are working to change that.”
Mujeres que no se dejan plays every other Thursday of the month, from 10-11 a.m. on Stereo Villa 101.7 FM (Lima Sur).