Overcoming Fear

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"Hello, my name is Juana Janampa, I'm from Huancapi, in Ayacucho, Peru. I married young and have five children. At the time of political violence in Peru, I became a widow. My children were still toddlers at the time and we had to leave Huancapi and go to live in Huamanga where I could look for work. It was a difficult journey for us to carry on without my husband. I cried so much during my mourning for him that I don’t think there are any tears left for the rest of my lifetime. My children are what gave me the strength to move forward; for them I could not remain a broken woman.

I took a job as a caretaker at a local school. One day the school secretary did not come to work. The school director had noticed that I was a very active and hard worker who learned quickly. He asked if I wanted to learn how to type. I said yes. I will always fondly remember this director for believing in me.

I always liked to learn and began taking courses to be certified as a teacher. When I started working at schools outside of my village, my children were left alone at home. My sister looked after them when I went to work. It was painful for me leave them during the week, but when weekends arrived there were always many hugs and I would spoil them and cook for them whatever they liked.

One day I decided it was time to return to my home in Huancapi to be near my children. In my spare time I started preparing and selling food, most of my clients were school teachers and I became well known for my cooking. I had not previously participated in a women's organization because I spent most of my time with my children and my job; at the time that was my whole world. Some friends invited me to one of the women’s organization meetings organized by The Hunger Project (THP) and Chirapaq. I really enjoyed it and I gradually began participating more.

Recently I was elected president of the Federation of Rural Women in Anta Province (FEMCA)-Fajardo; this made me very happy but at the same time frightened me because I didn’t see myself as a leader. I took a deep breath and told myself, "I have lived with so much suffering and I've persevered and dedicated many years to my children, it’s now time that I devote myself to me, "and I took the challenge.

At the conference where I was elected president, I met Mrs. Zoila, Recording Secretary of the FEDECMA, and she pledged to support me. “Do not be afraid,” she told me. She would talk with Chirapaq to provide me leadership training. For this I am extremely grateful.

With support from THP and Chirapaq, I learned a lot, especially to feel more confident in myself and have confidence that I can achieve what I need to help my organization run well. Through the training I learned that I can participate in meetings, trainings, see to the demands of the organization without neglecting my personal business.

That was a big concern of mine because I still have a daughter who is in high school; it’s important for me to save for her future and I cannot neglect my work. I now schedule my time better, and I’ve learned to be a better manager. I have expanded my business and provided a job to another woman like me who also needs to earn money for home. When I started selling food, I was only thinking of what I would earn on that day, and if I hadn’t sold all the food for that day I considered it a savings that I could bring home to my family. I never really thought in terms of the health of my business and making a profit.

Now that I've begun to put into practice all those teachings from Chiraqaq, I realize that first I must work on a business approach to improve my product and increase clientele. I had to begin a better system for putting a price on the products I sold. I had to work on my presentation and gauge what people think of my food. I had never thought about these things before. Before I hadn’t done any accounting to understand what I spent to prepare meals or how much I sold them for. Nor had I thought I should earn a salary!

Through these trainings with THP and Chirapaq, I began teaching other members of the FEMCA board. This has encouraged us all and now we communicate better. We meet more often and want to strengthen ourselves and our organization. Because we are all new members of this board, we have already started to work well together and want Chirapaq to come to our province to teach us to be leaders, to work for women businesses so that we can have a little "entradita" (extra money) and not have to depend on our husbands, because that always causes an argument. We also want to learn more about our rights; we had never heard about Convention 169 (OIT) before, here in the province. We want to learn more about all these issues that Mrs. Clelia speaks of: maternal health, intercultural identity, and also about the Consultation Bill because here there are many mining claims that we do not understand very well, but what we do know is that with this knowledge we can defend our rights."

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