Peru’s Olenka Ochoa awarded 2008 Women PeaceMakers prize by Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice

Peruvian human rights activist Olenka Ochoa Berreteaga was awarded one of four 2008 Women PeaceMakers prizes Wednesday by San Diego University’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, or IPJ.

“Women on the front line of efforts to end violence and secure a just peace seldom record their experiences, activities, and insights as generally there is no time, or, perhaps, no formal education that would help women record their stories,” the IPJ said in a statement posted on its Web site. “The Women PeaceMakers Program is a selective program for leaders who want to document, share, and build upon their unique peacemaking stories.”

As part of her award, Ochoa will receive round-trip airfare, housing, and a small stipend to cover expenses for an eight-week residency program in San Diego, California, where she is to give presentations at the IPJ fifth international forum on impunity, gender violence and exclusion, as well as in the San Diego community.

She will also document her life experiences through writing and videotapes, and participate in dialogue groups and workshops to exchange ideas and approaches to peacemaking and justice.

A university student when Peru’s internal conflict with Shining Path and MRTA guerrillas began in the 1980s, Ochoa promoted human rights in Lima’s shantytowns and, with political groups and NGOs, sheltered fellow women leaders resisting both guerrilla groups and the armed forces.

During this dangerous and tension-filled time, Ochoa worked alongside local community leaders such as Maria Elena Moyano, who was shot to death and blown up with dynamite in front of her children by the Shining Path in 1992 in Lima’s Villa El Salvador district after she condemned the terrorist group’s actions, and joined the nongovernmental Research and Training Institute for Family and Women.

She also worked with grassroots organizations to set up the first shelter for battered women in San Juan de Lurigancho, and later conceived the innovative project “Keepers of the Peace,” which involved at-risk youth in combating violence and discrimination.

On the governmental level, Ochoa has helped design new approaches to combat gender violence.

In 1996 she founded the Municipal Program “Jacaranda,” which won the first U.N. Latin American Contest for Women’s Rights in 1998, and for three years, from 1999 to 2002, she developed security strategies to protect women while serving as an elected member of the Metropolitan Lima Municipal Council.

Ochoa also actively contributed to design Peru’s law on equal opportunities for women and men, which was promulgated in March 2007.
Today, Ochoa is an executive member of the Federation of Municipal Women of Latin America and the Caribbean and of the Huairou Commission, a global network of community development organizations.

Shinjita Alam of Bangladesh, Sylvie Maunga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zandile Nhlengetwa of South Africa were also awarded the IPJ 2008 Women PeaceMakers prize.

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