been extremely difficult for poor women to aggregate their interests and have a greater influence in the
national policy sphere.
In 1979, the Peruvian and U.S. governments signed an agreement under which USAID would donate to
Peru surplus agricultural products, thus linking food donations to U.S. foreign policy goals and playing a
role (however unintended) in this chain of dependency and clientelism. In recent years, however, U.S.
food assistance has been channeled primarily through private sector entities, including professionally run
NGOs and organizations linked to the Catholic church, and their programs have involved innovative
efforts to strengthen the institutional capacity and self sufficiency of poor women's organizations. An
important step toward advancing this process would be for external donors to encourage the development
of intermediary or umbrella associations in this sector, as they have done with the
human rights field.
The feminist movement in Peru emerged roughly at the same time as the grassroots survival
organizations. However, as in most countries, it took some time for the largely urban and middle or upper
class feminist leaders to effectively combine their interests with the needs and organizations of poor
women. During the late 1970s, several important feminist NGOs were formed as break off movements
from the political left, including the Flora Tristan Center for the Peruvian Woman and the Manuela
Ramos Movement. Although their initial objectives remained within the framework of socialism, trying
to link problems of class and gender and challenging social inequality, many women renounced
traditional leftist politics and adopted openly feminist platforms. These included the decriminalization of
abortion, as well as equal rights and opportunities in the economic and political spheres. With the
collapse of the party system, the majority of feminist action became concentrated in NGOs.
By the 1990s, Peruvian feminists had gained considerable legitimacy and influence in national political
and intellectual spheres. Gender studies have been mainstreamed into numerous universities and
research centers, and the Gender Studies Program of the Catholic University of Peru is considered the
strongest in the Andean Region. Feminist lawyers are members of prestigious law faculties, on staffs of
organizations providing critical legal assistance to women, and serving in advisory capacities to local and
national government agencies. In addition, they provide training in gender sensitivity and domestic
violence issues for the National Police.
These efforts gained an unexpected and, for some, uncomfortable ally when President Fujimori joined
the official Peruvian delegation to the IV United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.
There he was applauded by feminists worldwide when he promised to confront the Catholic Church on
women's reproductive health and choice issues, and to enact sweeping measures to advance women's
status in Peru, including the creation of a new
Programa para la Mujer y el Desarollo Humano
(Promudeh), which has ministerial rank. Feminist NGOs have since provided staff and technical
assistance to this new women's ministry, as well as to a new multi party Women's Commission in the
Congress that enacted a variety of legislation favorable to women over 1995 2000. This new legislation
includes the Quota Law mentioned above and laws against domestic violence. Women also serve on
the staff of the
Defensoria de la Mujer
or Ombudsman for Women, which has provided critical legal
services and support to needy women.
In addition, feminist NGOs have moved effectively into the management of important health and
educational reform programs, with public resources and international assistance. Thus, feminist NGOs
are important actors in Peru's efforts to strengthen democracy, advocating for women's rights and
opportunities and assuming responsibilities in the public sphere. Furthermore, with the USAID supported
PROMUJER initiative and other efforts, diverse NGOs have promoted women's political participation
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