Women in Peñalolén, Chile Seek to Live in Peace and Dignity

Women in Peñalolén, Chile Seek to Live in Peace and Dignity

By Shelley Buckingham, Rooftops Canada Intern

“We, the women, are the ones who pick up the shovels and build our own homes. Our need to take care of our children gives us more strength as women. We protect and provide for them with access to health care, education and dignified housing,” says Alicia Cariqueo Naranjo.

Alicia is a member of the housing rights movement Movimiento de Pobladores en Lucha (MPL, Movement of Dwellers in Struggle) in Santiago, Chile. MPL demonstrates the Social Production of Habitat (SPH) defined by Habitat International Coalition (HIC) as a people-centred approach to production, upgrading and management of housing. The aim of SPH is “to gain and sustain a home and community in which to live in peace and dignity.” HIC recognizes women as key actors in SPH actions.

I learned about Alicia this year as a Rooftops Canada Intern working with HIC’s Women and Shelter Network in Santiago. Rooftops Canada has been a member of HIC for the past 20 years, supporting HIC regional activities and the global strategy, particularly the events at the 2006 World Urban Forum in Vancouver and the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi.

Alicia is a resident of Peñalolén, one of 34 communes (or municipalities) in Santiago. She lives in her parents’ home with her three children aged six, eight and ten. Alicia dreams of owning her own home where she can raise her children in peace and dignity. As a single parent, she struggles to provide for her children by selling clothing that she makes at home.

In Chile, the lack of affordable housing coupled with the high cost of land favours developers and pressures low-income communities to relinquish their homes and move to the city outskirts. Overcrowding is a common problem for many households and is one of the main reasons why MPL was established.

Alicia is the head of one of 11 MPL assemblies. She meets weekly with her assembly to discuss the plans for the upcoming December 2008 project. The project entails the self-managed construction of affordable houses and apartments in a northern sector of Peñalolén which will help many people, including Alicia and her family.