Towards the Inclusion of the Afro-Descendant Variable in Peru’s Official Data

On February 12-13, the Centro de Desarrollo de la Mujer Negra Peruana [Center for the Development of Black Peruvian Women] and the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights held a Workshop Toward the Inclusion of the Afro-Descendent Variable in Official Data, in Lima, Peru, with the goal of defining the participation of Afro-Peruvians in the upcoming 2017 National Census. The workshop was funded by the Andean Division of the Ford Foundation.

Eighteen members of Peruvian civil society participated in the event, along with several government representatives, including Owen Lay, Director of Policy for Afro-Peruvians and the Vice-Minister of Intercultural Affairs, who spoke to participants about the preliminary results of Special Study on the Afro-Peruvian Population, a project undertaken last year whose objectives were, amongst other goals, to gather specific, disaggregated information about Afro-Peruvians’ social, economic and cultural reality.

Mr. Lay emphasized that the Special Study was not a complete census but merely a survey. Nevertheless, he was able to offer several important findings from the study: for example, that 37% of those surveyed earned less than the minimum wage of (750 soles, USD $244) and that 55% were self-employed. One disturbing finding was that 58% of respondents felt that racial discrimination was an important factor in Afro-Peruvians’ poverty.

In addition, Dante Ponce, from the Desk on Human Rights and Persons with Disabilities of the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office underscored that for the Office of the Ombudsman it was important to see that “in fact the State had heeded their recommendation to realize a Special Survey, even if the survey was to have been carried out by the National Institute for Statistics and Information Technology (INEI) but was in fact undertaken by the Vice-Ministry for Intercultural Affairs.

Oswaldo Bilbao from the Centro de Desarrollo Étnico Comunitario [Center for Community and Ethnic Development] and Cecilia Ramírez from CEDEMUNEP, both members of the Inter-institutional Technical Committee on Statistics and Ethnicity announced their satisfaction that, in a change from past surveys, the term moreno (dark-skinned), a term frequently used by Afro-Peruvians in self-identification, had been included in INEI’s preliminary testing that occurred in 2014.

Nancy Hidalgo, National Director of Censuses and Surveys at INEI affirmed that although the census will occur in 2017 much work has already begun, including during the last year the carrying out of “114 cartographic examinations in Highlands districts  in advance of the 2017 census.” Hidalgo also underscored the role of civil society in raising awareness amongst the Afro-Peruvian population at large. Finally, she reminded participants that INEI’s role is not to make policy but rather to provide information and statistics to policy-makers.

Lastly, Belinda Jackson-Farrier, Cultural Affairs Officer and Jorge Rivera, Cultural Specialist at the US Embassy in Peru, affirmed the commitment of the Embassy to work with Afro-Peruvians and indigenous peoples of Peru, and mentioned the Embassy’s support of citizen participation in the census process. In addition, the American representatives highlighted the Embassy’s cultural programming with respect to Afro-Peruvians and made mention of scholarships and English-language training for Afro-Peruvians and indigenous Peruvians.


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