The Rights of the Warrior Mothers in Perú

By Abntonio Peña Jumpa*

March 18, 2024.- In the second semester of the year 2022 we had the opportunity to meet, on the initiative of a group of law students, the mothers organised in the “Ollas Comunes” (common pots) in the area called San Antonio de Padua, within the Juan Pablo II Human Settlement, in the district of San Juan de Lurigancho, in Lima, Peru. Thanks to this initiative, we were able to link other students to carry out the same voluntary work and to get to know a specific social group in order to develop a socio-legal or anthropological-legal investigation. The experience has been very pleasant, socially and academically, because it has allowed us to get to know the warrior mothers of the area, as they identify themselves.

These warrior mothers are the symbol of women who fight for the fulfilment of their rights in Peruvian society. They are simple women, with many emotional, social and economic problems, but with a great capacity for organisation and resilience, which leads them to survive with their daughters and sons.

University law students listening to the Madres Guerreras at their Olla Común venue (2022).

They are the other extreme of professional women who have a secure economic income and the aspiration of a higher income or of occupying a public or private position that seeks to equal or exceed the monthly income of the dominant men in the country's economic or political power. They are also the other extreme of independent women (free from the burden of their partner or children) and entrepreneurs or businesswomen who know the market circle and can take advantage of it by earning the same income as male entrepreneurs.

Warrior mothers are women who work and struggle on a daily basis, but without an economic income. The vast majority of them are migrant women, originally from Andean or Amazonian communities, or from rural coastal communities or other popular urban areas, who moved for work, progress or necessity to large cities such as Lima, and where they coincided with the cohabitation or marriage of a partner who then abandoned them when he fled with another woman without paying child support. It also includes a group of migrant women with a stable partner (usually from a second engagement), but with a meagre or limited income, because her or his work is sporadic, not allowing them to support their offspring with permanent food.

University law students with religious sister Reynita Vilches (who works with the Madres Guerreras) moving in the San Antonio de Padua sector (2022).

These women warrior mothers live in the aforementioned area after an invasion or after the transfer of a recently invaded plot of land, during or after the COVID-19 pandemic. They left behind the houses of a family member (where they were usually exploited) or the rented rooms where they lived during their migration process, and became owners of the new plot, with precarious housing, no water and sewage, and limited electricity.

The rights of these warrior mothers are legally equal to those of professional and entrepreneurial women and men. However, the comparison is a far cry from reality.

  • First, they do not have even 10% of the income of professional or business men and women. That is, individually they do not even earn the minimum living income (1,025 soles or 278.82 dollars per month), and if they have a partner, together they do not have that minimum living income on a permanent basis.
  • Second, they suffer from hunger. With a meagre income, they are unable to buy the food they need to live. It is very difficult for them to pay for lunch from the “Ollas Comunes” (common pots), which amounts to 2 or 2.5 soles. As a result, they often have to stop feeding themselves so that their sons and daughters can do so.
  • Thirdly, they have not had access to education. Most of them have only been able to study in a primary school or have incomplete secondary education. Moreover, their studies have been of very poor quality, with materials and methodology that have not considered their social or cultural differences.
  • Fourth, they have no one to leave the care of their children when they want to rest or need to leave the house to work. After the migration process, they left their family ties behind, and with them their capacity for family support.
  • Fifth, they have no right to health. The nearest health post has no health professionals, let alone medicines. The cost of going to a more organised health centre is too high for them to afford.
  • Sixth, they also have no access to justice. There is neither a court nor a State Prosecutor's Office located near them, which are at their disposal to resolve the hundreds of lawsuits or complaints that arise from their problems.

Warrior mothers have many other rights that are not being fulfilled. But the most notorious is that there are hundreds of thousands, or millions, of women in this condition in Peru.

Image of the San Antonio de Padua sector where the Madres Guerreras live (2022-2023).

Why do the state authorities have no interest or capacity to understand and resolve the problems or demands of these warrior women? Why don't professional women and men or businessmen and businesswomen who are in better economic and social conditions assume an attitude of solidarity by SHARING our goods with these warrior women, beyond a claim for formal rights that do not benefit them?

It is likely that a group of us men are most responsible. This is because our training in marriage or family rights has been incomplete; we have not valued the meaning of FAMILY, as warrior mothers show it despite their needs.

However, beyond identifying responsibilities, the issue is to act honestly, urgently and together. If we do not address the causes of the problems and needs of warrior mothers today, we are generating a context of extreme structural violence that will have repercussions on their and our sons and daughters, as aggressors or victims, reproducing inequality, insecurity and instability in our society and country.

(Written in Lima, March 13 and 14, 2024)


*Antonio Peña Jumpa is Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and lecturer at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. Lawyer, Master in Social Sciences, and PhD in Laws.

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