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This farmer, mom, and small-business owner is also a champion of women’s rights in rural Peru.
When I visited Virginia Ñuñoncca’s home in rural Peru to profile her for Oxfam America’s magazine, she and her daughter Soledad were so fascinating and welcoming that I didn’t want to leave. Three years after participating in an Oxfam-funded project designed to help Andean farmers adapt to climate change, Ñuñoncca has expanded her irrigation system, tripled her pastureland, and purchased dairy cows. By selling the cows’ milk and cheese, she and her family earn a steady income for the first time. “I have always been an optimist,” said Ñuñoncca of her determination to succeed even in the sometimes harsh climate of the Peruvian highlands.
But it’s not only her economic success that inspired me: It’s also her commitment to women’s rights and equality in a place where these are far from universal values. Ñuñoncca, 54, took part in workshops organized by Oxfam’s partner on leadership, self-esteem, and gender equality. “Before [the workshops], I was afraid of men. I felt that men had more rights than I did,” she said. “But learning about gender, I learned we’re all equal—men and women both. … Now I’m not afraid. Now I respect the rights of others.” She’s also teaching this principle of equality to her neighbors in other communities—both men and women—and to her sons and daughters, just as my mom taught me.
This story was submitted as part of Oxam America's International Women's Day initiative to honor women working to right the wrongs of poverty and hunger. Honorees are selected independently by Oxfam supporters. Selection does not imply endorsement or other support from Oxfam America.
Do you know a woman who's making a difference in the fight against poverty, hunger, and injustice? Share her story with the Oxfam community as inspiration on International Women's Day!