When local women lead, we follow

Nora, one of the mothers of Poayhan, came into the Alianza Arkana office and said “I would like to do a workshop with mothers and daughters.” Nora explained that in Paoyhan, there is a problematic inter-generational gap with girls who have attended workshops. Once they arrive home to share what they have learned with their families, they can feel unsupported because of a difference ways of thinking. “I want the mothers to learn what their daughters are learning” she said.

This episode marked an important moment in the work that we are doing with Paoyhan and the Nomabaon Nete initiative, as it is a clear signal of how we are moving towards accompanying in the women’s self-determination, empowerment, and self-sufficiency. Alianza Arkana has stopped making the proposals and now the organized, empowered, and strong women of Paoyhan are proposing on their own.

Intergenerational Sharing Circle in Paoyahn
Inter-generational Sharing Circle in Paoyahn

And so the work began. We increased our visits to Paoyhan in order to improve our communication with the mothers and ensure that we were planning the workshop collectively. We also decided that Alianza Arkana would collaborate with the workshop materials, food that needed to come from Pucallpa, and the facilitation, while the community would collaborate with the invitation of participants, cooking labor force, local fish and meat, wood, water, and plantains.

This workshop, which only lasted a weekend, focused again on self-esteem, sexual health, and violence. However, more than the content itself, the idea behind every workshop is to create a safe space for dialogue that allows for the women to feel trust, comfort, love, and fun. Creating safe spaces is thus, crucial because it is only then that our participants are able to open up about their issues and become empowered to slowly change their situation.

A highlight from this workshop was its intergenerational nature. Mothers, daughters, young kids, and even a shy and curious 12 year-old boy, participated in the workshop and could enjoy the variety of activities that we had planned for them. Regardless of gender and age, the idea was that all participants could feel comfortable in the space.

Mothers, daughters, sons.

Future directions

Every workshop is a chance for us to build upon our webs of mutual support as women, share new ideas, and figure out how to move forward in this process of movement-building.

One way in which we want to move forward is having more artistic and fun activities for the young girls. For example, our teens love the song “Antipatriarca” by chilean singer Anita Tijoux, and are very excited to translate it into Shipibo and hopefully make a music video out of it! This will not only serve as a fun and empowering experience for the girls, but will also allow for them to value their language, as well as help us use this material for other women in other communities.

Another path we see developing is the continuation of the strengthening of local plant knowledge. Paoyhan is blessed with the presence of very knowledgeable local women healers, who are also excited to continue to share their knowledge with young girls.

Finally, as Nora and I continue to exchange ideas, we are excited keep planning together and slowly start training local facilitators so that the women of Paoyhan begin taking charge of their own educational spaces.  

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