A woman receives legal assistance in Lima, Peru from LWR's local partner Encuentros through our VenInformado project.

VenInformado: The challenge of starting a new life in Peru for Venezuelan women during COVID-19

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) continues to expand our digital platform VenInformado, which provides Venezuelan refugees and migrants with critical, accurate and up-to-date information and personalized virtual legal, psychosocial, COVID-19 and livelihoods assistance. LWR works in close collaboration with local partners Encuentros and Center for Psychosocial Care (CAPS) to provide free guidance on topics ranging from COVID-19 protection and regulations, legal requirements for refugee and residency status, managing mental health, resources for survivors of gender-based violence and guidance for starting a small business. Through its personalized one-on-one support portal, VenInformado staff have also responded to over 36,000 legal and psychosocial inquiries since its launch in 2018.

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Since 2017, Venezuelan migrants have found opportunities in Peru for themselves and for family members left behind in Venezuela. Women and girls who migrate encounter heightened risks of exploitation and face many challenges upon establishing themselves in their new country. The COVID-19 pandemic has added further complexity to the tumultuous process.

To better understand the daily challenges and lived realities of Venezuelan women in Peru, LWR’s VenInformado project sponsored a study conducted by Peru’s Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University (UARM) entitled Mujeres venezolanas en Lima: Integración laboral, trabajo de cuidado y salud mental en el contexto de la COVID-19 (“Venezuelan women in Lima: Labor integration, caregiving and mental health in the context of COVID-19").

Isabel Berganza, UARM’s academic vice rector, presented the study to the National Working Group for Refugees and Migrants (GTRM, by its acronym in Spanish) and shared learnings across our VenInformado platform. GTRM, with its nearly 80 partners, aims to support and complement the efforts of the Peruvian government to address the needs of vulnerable refugees and migrants. Dissemination of the study was also supported by Susana Chavez, director of local feminist NGO PROMSEX, and Rocio Valverde, sociologist and health researcher.

The gender gap in Peru

Peru ranks 62nd out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index. Yet, Peru drops to 109th in the ranking when only economic opportunities and economic participation are considered. Women earn 63 percent of what men earn and bear the brunt of childcare and household responsibilities.

In Peru’s labor sector, women primarily work in areas related to service provision including restaurants, stores, administrative offices and call centers. They work an average of 41 to 50 hours per week and earn less than 1,500 Peruvian soles per month (approximately $400). Furthermore, women typically do not receive formal contracts, which increases economic vulnerability and lowers work protections.

A hand holds a smart phone

A Venezuelan migrant uses the VenInformado app in her home in Peru.

Perseverance despite pandemic pressures

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru caused many shops in which Venezuelan women were previously employed to close their doors. In order to gain more control over their income and to balance childcare and household responsibilities, many women were pushed towards entrepreneurship and started their own small businesses from their homes.

A woman from the study recounts:

I had been working, I had a steady job. But once the pandemic started, they had to close the store and then we could not continue working. Many of us were unemployed and, well, I had to start over little by little. I spent about four months without working at anything, because I didn't know what to do and I was kind of lost.

Xenophobia remains an enormous obstacle for Venezuelan women living in Peru. Rejection by co-workers and elevated levels of emotional pressure are common, which increases depression, lack of self-confidence, isolation and even difficulty sleeping.

Another woman from the study discussed the difficulties of being available for her children.

My daughter, who is already eight years old, she complains to me about why I can’t spend more time with them, because I work a lot and sometimes I don't have enough money since they depend only on me, they don't count on their father's help. Sometimes she also complains to me because I don't share much with her. I don't go to the park often with them because some Sundays, which is the day I rest, I can’t even rest because I do things at home or take on extra work to earn a little more money.

Despite the challenges of migration, COVID-19 and economic pressures in a new country, the study found high levels of resilience amongst Venezuelan women in Peru. With a desire to overcome and persevere to achieve their goals, these women are betting on a brighter future.

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to ripple through Peru, LWR remains committed to connecting Venezuelan migrants with critical, accurate information and personalized virtual legal, psychosocial and livelihoods assistance through VenInformado.

 

The following blog is adapted from its Spanish version, originally published on VenInformado’ s site.

 

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