On September 14th and 15th, the Institute for Race, Equality and Human Rights and the Centro de Desarrollo de la Mujer Negra Peruana [Center for the Development for Black Peruvian Women] (CEDEMUNEPP) organized the Workshop Toward the Inclusion of the Afro-descendant Variable in Official Data, where Afro-Peruvian leaders met to address such topics as a communication strategy to promote the Afro-descendant agenda, the inclusion of the ethnic variable in official data-collection, the promotion of self-identification amongst the Afro-Peruvian population and strategies for alliances with other ethnic groups with similar demands.

At the meeting, the Executive Director of the Institute for Race, Equality and Human Rights, Carlos Quesada, highlighted the strengthening of Afro-Peruvian organizations in their leadership role in pressing the demands of Afro-Peruvians in the public sphere. “We should congratulate ourselves on our progress. No longer are we passive objects of study and analysis. Now we are assertive activists proposing actions directed toward generating positive responses from the State,” said Quesada.

Specialists in Afro-descendant issues participated in the event, including Jader Gómez Caicedo, of the Proceso de Comunidades Negras [Process of Black Communities] (PCN) of Colombia, and Paola Yáñez, of the Red Nacional de Mujeres Afrobolivianas [National Network of Afro-Bolivian Women], both of whom shared their experiences in working toward heightening the visibility of Afro-descendant populations in the censuses of Colombia and Bolivia, respectively.

Gómez Caicedo underlined the dangers in keeping the category “mestizo” [mixed-descent] in the census questionnaire, given that it could mask situations of racial discrimination as well as subtract from the count of Afro-descendants and other ethnicities in Peru.  For her part, Paola Yáñez shared her experience of utilizing unconventional communication strategies in order to gain constitutional recognition for Afro-Bolivians, and argued that use of unconventional communication methods is a powerful tool to express what official texts have denied about the presence, contributions and importance of the region’s Afro-descendants.

Cecilia Ramírez, Executive Director of CEDEMUNEP, emphasized the need for all of the present organizations to include in their agendas the matter of the 2017 census as a way to strengthen their demands on the Peruvian government. Participants also heard presentations from the Peruvian National Institute on Statistics (INEI) on the advancements made on the inclusion of the ethnic variable in the frequent surveys known as National Home Survey (Encuesta Nacional de Hogares, ENNAHO) as well as findings that shed light on the situation of exclusion suffered by the Afro-Peruvian population. In addition, the National Director for Policy on the Afro-Peruvian Population, Owen Lay González, assured participants that the 2017 census will show the complete picture of the socioeconomic standstill of Afro-Peruvians and will document their limited access to health care, education and employment.

The Workshop included two days of work and interaction. It culminated in the joint presentation of an impact plan and the preparation of strategies to strengthen the participation of Afro-Peruvians in the Peruvian Inter-institutional Technical Committee on Statistics on Ethnicity, a participatory space responsible for the inclusion of ethnic variable in the 2017 census.