It is not a secret that the treatment of Peruvian women in Peru hasn´t been the best. It has been the social norm that they have to submit to their male partner and some of their partners are taking advantage of this. Peruvians themselves admit that their society is quite “Machista”, a Spanish term suggesting men´s domination over women. Most women here are not only expected to complete most house chores, take care of the children, but also turn a blind eye to their man´s cheating. Actually, some say Peruvian men are expected to cheat and the woman is supposed to be ok with it. Unfortunately, some men here take their control over women to the next level and even use physical force upon them. When this happens, most women here just accept it and continue with their lives. Well, not anymore. The wind of change is blowing over Peru as well.
There are countless women in this country who have been disappointed by their husbands, partners or other men in their life. If you start chatting to one of them, you will eventually hear them say with dead eyes and a hopeless expression “Todos son iguales: machistas y mentirosos” (which means “All are the same, macho and liars”. One woman who owns a hostel in Cusco was forbidden by her husband to work all her life and after impregnating her 7 times, he decided to move on to a younger woman. But the glimmer of hope was there: this beat up, but courageous woman picked herself up, dusted herself off and somehow managed to open her business: a hostel, which was actually working quite well. Another Peruvian woman who appeared in the local newspaper had been taken advantage of two men. Both had promised her forever and each gave her one child and then bailed. But even now, at over 60 years old, she spoke with dignity and a smile. She was able to raise her kids by herself and was pretty well off. These women managed to empower themselves.
The most heart-wrenching situation that one can hear about in Peru was that of some young girls who had been abused, impregnated and had given birth and now they were cared for in a private house/institution. Most of them were still only children: 14 and 15 years old. Although not all of them may be excited to have to care for a baby, they all do it dutifully. And, more importantly, they are all trying to lift themselves up, by studying and taking part-time jobs. Men had attacked them, but they hadn´t defeated them.
All these situations show that, although Peruvian women may have been mistreated, abused, unappreciated, they took it all with dignity and rose above. This just shows the resilience and power of women and humans in general. But sometimes resilience and ambition are not enough. Sometimes all someone needs is an opportunity, a helping hand. Who of us hasn´t met an extremely bright, intelligent or talented person whose cards just weren´t dealt right: they either had abusive parents, or parents that left them, or maybe an accident had left them paralyzed. Since no one cared and no one tried to give them a chance, they just sunk in the world of drugs, alcohol or even killed themselves. That is why empowering women is of such great importance.
Action Peru Treks believes in caring and giving opportunities. Since all staff is local and even the founder comes from a rural area outside Cusco, most of them have seen first-hand situations when women were not treated right and when they could have used a helping hand. They realize it could be their mother, sister or daughter that is mistreated and they believe in being their voice when they cannot speak. The desire to empower women came naturally to them.
In order to be able to offer women a helping hand, Action Peru Treks has designed a plan which will shift the balance a bit when it comes to gender inequality. So far, most trekking companies only hire men as guides, porters, wranglers etc. Why? It could be that the social structure in Peru has commanded that women are not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough or should just stay home with the kids. Pathetic excuses, many may agree. But Action Peru Treks does not want to make any more excuses; instead they would like to uplift local women by giving them a job they can be proud of: starting from 2020, Our company is only going to hire women as porters on the Inca Trails and other tours, in a bid to support gender equality. Some might argue that employing only women does not mean equality, that men should play a role as well. But, if we keep in mind women have never had their chance until today, it should sound pretty fair. Also, most trekking companies will still continue to use only men, so it´s far from unfair to men.
Action Peru Treks is aware that bringing women along with other men working on the tour or even tourist males may do more harm than good, in a sense that men may still try to apply the same dominating and sometimes disrespectful behavior. That is why we will make sure we train our other workers regarding what is acceptable and respectful in their behavior towards their new female co-workers. There will be no alcohol allowed, which may lead some to negative actions and, most importantly, they will be made to understand everybody is equal and everybody deserves to be treated with the same respect.
Also, Action Peru Treks takes in consideration that a lot of women, especially in Peru, have been taught by society not to speak up, that they should just accept what is happening to them. Therefore they will be reminded they have the right to speak up if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable, by acting or talking. After centuries of submission, this may be a challenging task. However, Action Peru Treks is optimistic and determined to play their part in the big change that is about to take over Peru. Since this change has already started in more developed countries, there is no reason for Peru to not keep up. Women in Peru deserve no less than other women around the globe.
With all the women rights movements rising in the Western worlds, most tourists are aware of the importance of gender equality and the importance of uplifting women from a position where they often have been taken advantage of. There are very few companies in Cusco that take into account that women deserve the same jobs, treatment and opportunity as men. That is why, unfortunately, only a few offer the chance to women to work in a tour. Action Peru Treks believes that there can be no sustainable tourism while choosing to neglect gender inequality that still goes on in Peru. That is why they don´t just claim they “practice sustainable tourism”, but actually play their part in empowering women by offering them the same opportunities as they do men. Just as an example, Action Peru Treks will only let women carry 10-12 kg during the Inca Trailtrek, while men usually carry 20. However, we will pay the same salary to women, as they are willing to adapt to their capacity. This is proof that money is not our main objective, but doing the right thing is.
Action Peru Treks is aware that the porters have one of the hardest jobs on the Inca Trail, but they still do it happily, professionally and without complaining. Action Peru Treks does not want to fall in the trap of taking advantage of these hard-working people. We will always make sure the rights of the porters are respected, as stated in the Inca Trail Porters Protection Law no 27607, issued in 2001. Therefore, among others, We make sure porters are always provided with transport to the starting point and from the end point of the trip, enough food, proper rest, warm equipment and accommodation, above average salaries and much more. Moreover, as stated earlier, men are allowed to carry maximum 20 kg and, after hiring women porters in 2020, in an attempt to empower women, Action Peru Treks will pay them the same salary, while acknowledging the maximum weight they can carry and only let them carry 10-12kg.
Action Peru Treks is optimistic and very excited about the effects of their decision to lend a hand in empowering women. They believe women have always been equal to men and perfectly capable of doing anything a man can do. This move will definitely bring a great change to the society in Peru. Women have always thought and have been expected to contribute to family´s finances mainly by weaving and working the fields. However, if men could bring income a number of ways, so could they. Most of them never even dreamed they could do the job of a porter, which some of their male relatives have been doing. Action Peru Treks does expect this initiative may come as a shock to many, and the more conservative men will not be happy about it, or the “machistas”, but they are optimistic that the majority of male relatives and husbands will encourage and support their female relatives, if they truly care for them. Action Peru Treks hopes the whole society will play its part in this movement of women empowerment.
As Action Peru treks has proved many times, they are not in it only for the money. Action Peru Treks was born out of the passion its owner has for Cusco and its amazing surroundings. Having come from a village outside Cusco and having spent his childhood around these beautiful sites, he decided to set this trekking company up so that he can share with the world the beauty of these surroundings. Moreover, he wanted to give opportunities to all those villagers who never had any before. That is why Action Peru Treks has always hired local people, in an effort to give back to the community. Now, as the company has grown, they are taking it to the next level, which is empowering women. Therefore, since its objectives are more social and more about uplifting the community, its profit margins are at least 40% less than other tour agencies. After hiring women porters, who will be paid the same but carry about 50% less kilos, and having to hire a double number of women, profits will be even smaller. But that doesn´t stop Action Peru Trek´s enthusiasm because they know they are doing the right thing and playing an important part in empowering women in Peru.
As another proof that Action Peru Treks cares about sustainable tourism, they take all the necessary steps to make sure the precious environment that brings so much excitement and awe to tourists is protected. Firstly, they try not to use too much paper, as they don´t have flyers and do most of their advertising on the internet. Also, they always recycle paper in the office. They always make sure they give a briefing to their tourists so they don´t leave garbage behind or scare animals along the treks. They use solar panels, lamps and biodegradable soap. Moreover, as they hate to see local communities being exploited, they always try to provide jobs for local people (all their employees along the treks are local) and always advise them to protect their environment. Hiring women for the Inca Trail is just the latest step for them along the way of sustainable tourism.
Although money is not Action Peru Trek´s main objective, they do need money to survive. Therefore, their tour prices are a bit higher than other trekking companies´. Although this means fewer tourists may want or afford to choose their tours, it is a risk they are willing to take, since they cannot sacrifice giving back to the community or trying to empower women. Action Peru Treks thinks responsible tourists, who are aware of the importance of sustainable tourism and gender equality will know travelling with them will make the best impact on the local community.
In conclusion, many Peruvian women have been dominated, mistreated and abused for centuries. It was never acceptable for them to rebel or speak up. Action Peru Treks believe they deserve to be treated as equal to men and with respect. That is why APT has decided to only employ women as porters along the Inca Trail in 2020. They are aware they cannot change everything at once but believe that every little bit helps and they are doing their part.