THP Partner in Peru Receives Order of Merit for Her Work to Defend Indigenous Rights

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Tarcila Rivera Zea, president of Chirapaq, The Hunger Project's partner organization in Peru, has been awarded with the Women's Order of Merit given by the Ministry of Women and Social Development in Peru in recognition of her commitment to assert and defend indigenous peoples and women's rights.

Tarcila shared with us, "Estoy muy contenta porque es un reconocimiento que abriga el alma." ("I am very happy because this is a recognition that warms the soul.")

Tarcila is a Quechua indigenous woman who was born in the San Francisco community of Bids (Ayacucho) in Peru. She has worked defending the rights of indigenous peoples and women in Peru for the past 25 years.

Tarcila moved to Lima when she was ten years old, and worked as a domestic worker in exchange for education, learning Spanish only at age 18. She finished high school at age 21.

She then went to work at the National Institute of Culture (INC) in 1972 as a secretary. While there, she won a series of OAS scholarships to specialize in archival and library studies in Argentina and at the Vatican.

In the 1980s, Tarcila joined the Indian Council of South America as a journalist, contributing to the magazine Indian People. She collected testimonies of indigenous women raped in prison during the political violence. For this work, Tarcila was recognized by a foundation in Holland, who invited her to pursue a human rights degree at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague.

Tarcila founded Chirpaq (Center for Indigenous Peoples' Cultures of Peru) in 1986 as an association committed to the recognition and full exercise of the rights of indigenous peoples, giving priority to the leadership of women and indigenous youth.

Since 1987, Tarcila has participated in the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in the formation of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations (UN) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

She also participated in the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (Egypt, 1994), the World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and the Declaration and Program of Action of Durban (adopted at the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, South Africa, 2004). She provided input into policies concerning intercultural education, empowerment and the visibility of indigenous women.

In the past 20 years, Tarcila has contributed to the creation of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMI), the International Indigenous Women Forum (FIMI) and the International Indigenous Press Agency (AIPIN).

Tarcila is also a member of:

  • Consultative Committee of the Peruvian Committee of Women Parliamentarians;
  • Indigenous Initiative for Peace led by Rigoberta Menchú (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate);
  • Commission on Intellectual Property Commercialization of the Continental Indigenous Women's Movement;
  • Monitoring Committee of the Pact of Pedregal; and
  • Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) (board member).

The Hunger Project warmly congratulates Tarcila on this recognition of her outstanding leadership.

March 2010