Plan's Safer Cities Project

Welcome To Lima

Ariana and Lizeth are active participants
of the Safer Cities Workshop.

Girls living in cities are fortunate to have more opportunities, but they are also subjected to more risks. Girls are more likely to be educated, less likely to be married at an early age, and more likely to participate in politics; however, they face sexual harassment, exploitation, and insecurity as they navigate the urban environment. In spite of these hazards, very little information is available to girls and young women who live in urban environments.

Thirteen-year-old Ariana and 17 year-old Lizeth both live in the northern district of Lima, Peru, where more than 20% of its population lives in slums. The lack of paved roads and lighted streets often means that cars and buses cannot access the roads. As a result, girls and women must either walk long distances, or rely on dangerous three-wheeled mototaxis whose drivers are often unlicensed minors.

Last month, both Ariana and Lizeth participated in Plan’s Safer Cities Workshop. The workshop identifies problems related to violence in public places and empowers girls to get involved in making improvements to their cities.

Ariana

Ariana has just turned 13. She is a slowly becoming a woman and her body is changing. Boys and men in her locality have also started noticing her. “When I walk on the street men call me names or whistle at me. If I know them, I tell them to shut up; but if I don’t know them, I pass by and don’t say anything.”

“We all knew that these kinds of things happen here, like boys or men bothering girls, the dangers of riding on or being hit by three-wheeler taxis at night or people using drugs in public spaces. However, in the workshop, other girls shared their particular experiences about harassment and insecurity and I didn’t know about some of them,” Ariana says.

Ariana realizes that insecurity is not just restricted to the streets, but can also occur in the home and at school. She knows that she can rely on her parents if something makes her feel uncomfortable.

“I have lived in this community almost all of my life, and I like it here, but I know that it’s not safe all of the time. I know that because I am a girl, I am more vulnerable to certain things. My life is different from boys, I wish it wouldn’t be like this, but it is,” she says.

Lizeth

17-year-old Lizeth lives in constant fear of dangers within a run-down collection of over 120 settlement homes clinging to a rocky hillside north of Lima. On average, five people share one or two rooms, none of which have running water. “Girls and parents are on guard all the time for the dangers that surround us here,” she says.

“At night, girls stay home as the risk of kidnapping for trafficking is very real here,” says Lizeth. “We heard of a girl who vanished. It frightened us so much.”

Inhabitants of the settlement sometimes call the district´s security patrol, but “he often arrives too late or chooses to ignore the problem,” says Lizeth.

“When we go to the market, we have to watch out for the three-wheeled mototaxi drivers who drive recklessly on the narrow roads. The majority of them have no licenses because as most of them are minors. They run away if they hit anyone.”

Uncontrolled groups of teenage boys and young men in their neighborhood have Lizeth’s parents worried about her safety. “The boys party all night, drink alcohol, and even abuse drugs openly which are all easily available,” says Lizeth. As a result, girls like Lizeth prefer to stay home after dark.

“The threat of violence in quite common for all here, but the risks are far greater for me mainly because I am a girl,” she says.

The Future

After the workshop, the participants were able to obtain a snapshot of the current situation facing adolescent girls’ safety and inclusion.

Through the study, the teams were also able to identify key government and community leaders to engage with, identify various opportunities and challenges to address, promote important conversations and bridge the gap between girls and local authorities, and build the capacity of adolescent girls and boys to speak about and act on issues of safety and inclusion.

The Safer Cities Workshop is part of the ground-breaking ‘Because I am a Girl’ urban program which focuses on the needs of adolescent girls.

To learn more about how Ariana and Lizeth's contributions have made a difference, take a look at the Adolescent Girls’ Views on Safety in Cities Report.