Very young adolescents (VYAs) aged 10 to 14 represent 9 percent of Peru's population. Issues affecting VYAs include early pregnancy, school dropout, intrafamily violence, sexual assault, and poverty. Girls are disproportionately affected by these issues. According to the World Bank, the adolescent fertility rate in Peru stands at 56 per 1,000, which is significantly higher than the world average of 42 per 1,000. Most of these births result from unintended pregnancies, reflecting the lack of understanding of sexual and reproductive health issues among young people and the high levels of violence girls experience. In 2018, 66 percent of victims of sexual and intrafamily violence and 93 percent of survivors of sexual violence among VYAs were girls.
In Cusco, most of the population is of indigenous descent (58 percent), and indigenous girls are among the most vulnerable groups, marginalised by ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, and gender. The population of Cusco's Saylla district, where Pukllasunchis has been working with EMpower’s support for the past three years, has been highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with increasing gaps in education, health and opportunities among VYAs, especially girls and young women. In this district, as a result of the pandemic, the incidence of violence against women and children increased--according to official figures from the Saylla police station, reports of domestic violence increased by 19% during the pandemic. In addition, the pandemic caused significant emotional damage among children and adolescents, as well as an increase in unwanted pregnancies. Finally, school closures negatively affected young people, resulting in learning loss, especially in mathematics and reading & writing. It is critical to address these issues to ensure that the rights of VYAs, especially girls, are upheld.
Founded in 1981, Pukllasunchis is a non-profit organisation based in Cusco. Pukllasunchis, a Quechuan word that means "let's play," has 147 employees (60 of whom come from groups historically marginalised by gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status) that provide bilingual, alternative and intercultural education to vulnerable children and youth in Cusco City. The organisation has three core programs:
Pukllasunchis intercultural school. Founded in 1988, the school covers the pre-k, elementary, middle and high school levels. It has 780 students between the ages of 4 and 17 from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. The school has a progressive agenda, with an environmental and human rights approach to education. Most students are of indigenous descent, and Quechua is taught as a second language. The Ministry of Education officially recognises it as one of the 20 model schools in environmental education in Peru, and it is a member of ASHOKA's global network of change-maker schools.
Pukllasunchis teacher training institute. The institute, founded in 2014, offers training to students who want to become teachers at the primary and secondary levels, with a specialisation in intercultural and bilingual education. This type of training is important as most students in Cusco's public schools have Quechua as their native language, and, given that few teachers can speak Quechua, bilingual teachers are in high demand. The institute trains an average of 50 teachers per year and is recognised and partially supported by the national government through a scholarship program called Beca 18.
EMpower's third grant to Pukllasunchis will support 450 young people (269 very young adolescents (49% girls and 51% boys) between the ages of 10 and 14, and 181 adolescents (55% women and 45% men) between the ages of 15-17) to increase their knowledge about the physical and emotional changes related to their transition into puberty, improve their understanding and capacity to prevent gender inequities, develop girls' leadership skills, and protect their mental health. Additionally, Pukllasunchis will support adolescents to improve school performance through supplemental academic support to catch up to grade level in mathematics and reading & writing. The organisation will continue engaging and working with parents and teachers. The grant will also help Pukllasunchis strengthen its institutional capacity (training and professional development to staff and strengthen its planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning capacities).
Primary Location: Cusco, Peru
Funded Since: 2019
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