Technology gives a voice to the women who were sterilized in Peru

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Technology gives a voice to the women who were sterilized in Peru

by Vanessa Baird


300,000 women were sterilized (made unable to have children) in the 1990s. (Latin America For Less under a Creative Commons Licence)

Mobile phones and very old Inca technology are coming together so that the people who were sterilized by force can tell their stories and fight for justice.

Probably next year, the terrible legal case of the sterilization of 300,000 women in Peru will re-open. Many of these women were forced or did not agree to this.

This experiment in communications – called the “Quipu Living Documentary project” – could be very important in helping the women get justice.

The sterilizations were in the 1990s, under the government of Alberto Fujimori. The women still have serious mental and physical problems because of the sterilizations (supported by USAID). It was mainly poor and indigenous women.

Many of the women cannot read and write. This is why the Quipu project is so important. With mobile phones and VOIP internet technology, the women can record and listen to themselves and others and to talk to the rest of the world. Some women travelled eight hours to get to the project in Huancabamba, northern Peru.

At first the women said they did not know how to tell their stories. But later, they started speaking. ‘The women were excited to hear their stories in their own voices. It made them feel stronger,’ Karen Tucker, one of the project’s organizers, told the Peru Support Group in London.

This gives the women practice in talking about what happened. This will help when they go to court to get compensation (payment).

And the Quipu Living Documentary project (run by Chaka Studio and two Bristol university academics) will go to other parts of Peru.

And where is the ancient Inca technology? The “Quipu” is an Inca communication system, made of knotted threads (string with ties, or knots on). They called the project “Quipu” because it is also a communication system making a string of spoken stories, to make the women stronger.

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