Visitors to Lima rarely leave the upscale Miraflores district; when they do, they quickly discover a city where huge numbers of people live in shantytowns where security, utilities, and money are in very short supply. Roughly half of the people live below world standards for poverty, and almost 20 percent exist in "absolute" poverty, which means they live on less than $1 per day.
For the poor, basic services remain the key to survival; and in Lima's busy streets, no one has done more to help them than the women's police unit founded by activist Silvia Loli. As the director of Women's House, a social service center in the middle of the city, Loli was well aware of the trouble women in Lima faced when they were raped or subjected to domestic violence and tried to work with the police. Cases were routinely shelved or dismissed by the police, who were overburdened and who placed violence against women at the bottom of their agenda. Certain that police services would improve if women were welcomed onto the force, Loli began pressing for them to be recruited. The idea gained some traction when public anger over corruption in the transit police reached a boiling point.
A small woman with dark hair, Loli holds several advanced degrees and is well known in political circles. In a lifetime spent advocating for the poor and the excluded, she has retained a kind of warmth mixed with an air of authority. This is a woman who knows how to grapple with difficult problems. With a sense of wonder at what has changed in her country, Loli told us about the progress made in public safety. Early success in the traffic control service led to the appointment of a female ombudswoman for the police department, and women were added to security teams at soccer matches--because, according to Loli, men are embarrassed to act like fools in front of women. Data gleaned from police units that included women led to the development of offices for women inside police stations, where female officers served female victims. National lawmakers were persuaded to approve comprehensive legislation making domestic violence a serious offense, and families suddenly had recourse to the justice system.
Although men, women, and children benefit from the police reforms and new laws, the energy behind the changes came almost entirely from women. When we asked Loli about the overall progress Peru has made, socially and economically, she said that the country remains at a point where meaningful solutions are still generated from the ground up, by people who need to see immediate improvements in their lives and their children's lives. Large institutions that might pursue these goals on a grand scale simply don't exist.
To fill the need, Women's House operates counseling programs and legal aid clinics that accept everyone. (When we visited, an elderly man waited patiently on a sofa for someone to see him about a landlord issue.) Loli has also started agencies that provide job training as well as financing and technical support for women who want to start small businesses. The center has backed start-ups that produce ceramics and clothing, and others that provide services, such as small appliance repair. Loli recounted the story of one woman who fled violence in her village and wound up in Lima, where she didn't know anyone. Loli and her team provided shelter and training, and the woman eventually applied for a job and became a cook. Loli recognizes that her country is still filled with much machismo, but believes that one-by-one, case-by-case, she and her team can help people into better lives.
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Sylvia's story is one of more than one hundred interviews we conducted around the world for The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future. The book features the results of our global survey of 64,000 people around the world where we see that that two-thirds of people feel the 'world would be a better place if men thought more like women'.
But before you think this is an 'End of Men' manifesto, we met incredible men along the way, who are employing flexibility, nurturing and collaboration to solve real complicated and intractable problems in politics, society and business. I gave a TEDxWomen talk on the book, which underscores how feminine values are a new form of competitive advantage - and inside us all.
Michael D'Antonio and I are both dads in all-female households. We believe this is an exciting time for making headway in women's and girl's rights and bridging the gender divide. We offer our insights with the rigor of data collected from all over the world. We want room in this discussion to include men. And as they learn that feminine thinking and skills match the needs of the future economy, everyone will benefit.
The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future now available on Amazon and at bookstores near you.