While WLP was in Lima for our annual partners’ meeting and WLP and International Women’s Democracy Network events at the World Movement for Democracy (WMD) Seventh Global Assembly, I enjoyed a presentation about the Peruvian Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion (MIDIS) during a WMD-organized site visit.
The presentation included an overview of the newly established department, which has a significant focus on women, and a description of its core social programs, followed by a lively Q&A.
The Ministry’s inaugural year was themed “the role of women,” and it marked the anniversary with an event called “Power: Women as Drivers of Growth and Social Inclusion,” which coincided with the Assembly. As a testament to the Ministry’s commitment to gender inclusion, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, and US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer presented during the event.
The Ministry, one of only a handful in the world explicitly dealing with social inclusion, was established in October 2011 to lead the country’s social policies. It implements programs focusing on poverty, hunger and malnutrition, gender inequality and women’s empowerment, primary and secondary education, increasing access to resources, and maternal and child health. These policies address Peru’s widening wealth and resource gap. Though the Peruvian economy is among the fastest growing in the world, at 72.3 percent over the past decade, poverty rates are troubling. Nearly one in five (18 percent) urbanites and an overwhelming majority (56 percent) of the rural population live in poverty. Even worse, in Peru’s rural areas, including its jungle and highlands, more than one in five (22 percent) live in extreme poverty, and 87 percent lack access to basic services like water, sanitation, electricity, and telephone service.
The Ministry uses cash distributions and other transfer programs to relieve poverty and vulnerability, while also promoting development such as increasing access to improved water and sanitation. MIDIS’s policies target impoverished and rural populations and families with a female head-of-household that is not a native Spanish speaker or has not completed a primary education. MIDIS focuses on women because it has identified significant gender equalities and found that, in general, women are more concerned with their children’s education than their male counterparts.
According to the MIDIS presentation, its five social programs employ a human rights approach and are designed to respond to the outcomes of rigorous evaluation. 1) Cuna Mas establishes day care centers for poor children and provides in-house counseling for families. Michelle Bachelet identified it as a policy that “systematically reduce[s] the burden on women in unpaid work.” 2) Qali Warma is a child nutrition program. 3) Through Juntos, a conditional cash transfer program, families receive $75 bi-monthly on the condition their children attend school. 4) FONCODES promotes productive development activities, including the continuation of the Juntos cash transfer program, when children pursue secondary education. 5) Pension 65, another cash transfer program, delivers $48 each month to the elderly poor.
From my impressions, it seemed that the Ministry staff was clearly passionate about the mission. The three presenters had graduated from prestigious universities outside of Peru but returned home to give back to their country. The staff expressed their sincere appreciation for the many thoughtful and technical questions from the WMD Assembly participants about the Department’s program indicators, multi-dimensional poverty indices, monitoring and evaluation methodology, and preferences of the target populations.
The ambitious target goals laid out by MIDIS will be challenging to realize. The Peruvian economy is largely driven by the mining industry, as Peru is a top producer of the world’s silver, copper, and gold. However, benefits from mining, including direct economic profits, are rarely enjoyed by the poor, rural towns where excavation takes place. Currently, there are more than 200 natural resource disputes in Peru. Additionally, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala’s “social inclusion” platform, which was widely supported by Peru’s indigenous and impoverished population during his election campaign, relies heavily on continued investment from this trade. Moreover, Humala’s presidency has been marked by controversy. Most notable is the clash that took place in September 2012, when police used force on protestors that resulted in 19 deaths.
As Peru moves forward with its social inclusion campaign, it will be interesting to see how it is able to meet the challenges of reducing poverty, while also maintaining economic growth.