Introducing The Vagina Monologues in Iquitos, Peru
Shortly after I arrived in Iquitos, Peru, I became friends with a girl working with local indigenous adolescents. These were students who had been raised in a community within the tropical rainforest and had come to Iquitos to study or work. Over time she became very close friends with some of them and they often sat down together and talked about the concerns and problems these students were facing.
She began telling me about these conversations and on one occasion the two of us discussed the role of women and female sexuality in Iquitos. We had noticed big differences in what we were accustomed to from the European cultures we had been raised in.
First, it seemed that there was still a long way to go in equality and empowerment of women. Many of the girls didn’t know their rights and how to protect themselves. Furthermore, female sexuality, in general, was hardly discussed and seemed irrelevant for much of the (predominantly) male population. After talking to some of the students and Peruvian friends, we came up with the idea of organizing a public presentation of “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler in Iquitos.
After receiving the script of the Monologues and permission to hold three presentations in Iquitos the following month, we got started. We met regularly, at least once a week, with a group of indigenous and Peruvian girls, people who have worked for a long time with NGOs in Iquitos, other volunteering friends, and a theater conductor. We watched the “The Vagina Monologues” together, discussed its different angles, and then adapted the monologues to the reality of Iquitos.
The process itself was already extremely valuable, since it provided a platform for us to talk with the girls about our different experiences, and opened the floor for questions, problems, and many other concerns the girls may have had. The various cultural backgrounds (Peru, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the USA), our huge age difference (the participants’ ages range from 16 to 70 years), and our different experiences accounted for highly interesting discussions.
After an intensive month of collective as well as individual preparation, we felt ready to bring ”The Vagina Monologues“ to the stage. One event took place in the cultural ministry, as it was a public space often used for presentations with a good reach to the public. Another presentation took place at a popular local bar, which seemed suitable because we expected a very different audience compared to the first presentation. In this way, we hoped to reach a diverse sampling of the population.
Additionally, we created a logo for the event to distribute. This helped create a sense of group membership with other like-minded girls who cared about the topic. The logo combines the concept of a cocona (a very popular, indigenous fruit from the rainforest) with the representation of a vagina. Below this image, a statement reads, “Coconas unidas” (Coconas united).
This was a (unsubtle) reference to a vagina since “cocona” is also used as a colloquial name for a vagina in Iquitos. As a whole, we were working to promote the unity of vaginas, as a fun activity and at the same time a wholehearted concern.
This event was an important part of my work as a global citizen in Iquitos. Not only did we all gain and share a lot of knowledge, but we were also addressing one of today’s global challenges; the suppression of the female gender in a developing country, as well as placing a spotlight on various aspects of female sexuality.