Marcia Barbis, CARE (Peru)

Through Skillpower we bring you stories of incredible women across the world who are breaking the mould and succeeding in business against the odds.  But the programmes supporting these women wouldn't exist without the hard work and dedication of our Country Officers. Marcia Barbis Quinones, who runs the Women in Enterprise programme in her native Peru, gives us her own 'behind the scenes' insight. Marcia has been working for CARE since 2000. From the beginning, she had always had the feeling that CARE and herself had, in her own words: 'the same “justice sense”, and how she has learned a lot from the people here, especially from the project participants.

Marcia at work

‘What surprised me most, or what stands out most of the women with whom we work, is their desire to grow, to move forward, and the continuous craving that they have to learn more.’

If you ask me about the relevance of the Women in Enterprise programme in Peru, the first thing that comes to mind is the necessity of understanding the importance of involving women in the business life. What we try to do with this project is for people to realize that women can generate profits, which she will of course invest in herself and her company, but in her family and community as well. Women are able to help break the cycle of poverty.

To me personally, the project helps me to understand the reality in my country. A reality that we sometimes do not even see in our daily lives. In most cities or urban areas there is much ignorance about the reality of these women. It is easy if you stay in your bubble, but the true challenge is to tackle the issues and find out in what ways you can support other areas in Peru to become advanced as well. This project gave me insights in how to do that best. Currently in the country we are witnessing a lot of violence against women and girls, and one way to confront this violence is to empower girls and women, for this reason it is necessary to strengthen their self-esteem and their abilities. Work with boys, men and the community to generate greater awareness of the importance of "co-responsibility" in the home and the community. Domestic roles must be shared and that must be worked on from childhood. “A girl empowered will be an empowered woman”. 

 It is great to see how much the women have advanced since the start of the programme three years ago. It is amazing to see how they can grow, with just a little help. These women have so much potential. We should not think that people are in a poor situation because they want to be poor. There are people who did not have equal opportunities. Whereas, there are many people who have little opportunities, yet grow very fast.

What surprised me most, or what stands out most of the women with whom we work, is their desire to grow, to move forward, and the continuous craving that they have to learn more. It is the journey that you get to follow from our perspective of a programme manager. You see a woman start out as a very shy and withdrawn person. Yet overtime you see that by supporting them in their empowerment process, they become more confident about their abilities. These women were not waiting for someone to convince them to do it, they were waiting for the opportunity to learn. If they do not do something, it is because they don’t know how to do it, or because they lack confidence to start, So when we speak of empowerment, we do not only speak of economic empowerment; We talk about empowering them as people. As persons who feel capable of moving forward.

Even though I have been working on this project for a while, it still touches me every time someone approaches me and says  ‘I did not know I was able to do this’, and are surprised by their own achievements. And when you hear expressions such as: "My children are proud of what I do, and I never imagined I could do this". To me, this is what keeps me motivated to continue working on this project, and to multiply the impact of our interventions.