MICHAEL WEINHARDT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mantay

 

MANTAY

CUSCO (PERU), 2009.  Rates of sexual abuse of Peruvian women, young and not so young, are some of the highest in the world. While the government tries to tackle the problem through programs, others provide their own alternatives that include shelters. MANTAY is an NGO shelter in Cusco, Peru for girls up to the age of eighteen who have been abused, often by family, and have become pregnant as a result. The shelter takes them in early, sometimes as early as eleven years of age, and educates them, develops their life skills, and exposes them to real work experience; Mantay produces high-quality handicrafts that are sold to tourists. This story documents the shelter, the staff, and the girls and their children.

I was very lucky to have been allowed in, and equally surprised by how positive the girls are given what they've been through. In Cusco and the surrounding rural areas from which the girls come, life is more straightforward than in first-world countries. Girls grow up faster, even without having children as teenagers, and perhaps are more pragmatic about the challenges they face. One of the girls said that, instead of feeling depressed, she felt lucky being at Mantay and plans to make the most of it.