In my first blog I talked about the history of the Vaso de Leche program and the original intention that each child in Peru under the age of six have the right to one glass of milk a day. Since the inception of the program things have changed dramatically. One of the biggest things that I discovered through my research is that the women who participate in the program have to deal with numerous conditions and obligations in order to receive a meager ration of 4 cans of milk a month. A ration of this amount lasts less than a week and is a far cry from one glass of milk per day.
In addition to receiving such a small amount, the milk comes with all kinds of strings attached, which change depending on the village. For example, recently in one village women MUST have a DNI (national identity card used for all sorts of things including voting) from the local municipality. So, if a woman from Ayacucho married a man from this village and moved there to raise her family, she has to change her DNI to the new municipality at the prohibitive cost of 25 nuevo soles. The majority of women cannot afford to make this change and as a result, a number have recently been kicked out of the program. This is taking place now because municipal elections will occur later this year and campaigning is picking up speed.
Other obligations include marching, when called by the municipality and work for the town, such as cleaning the plaza or cemetery. If women don’t attend these required events, fines are imposed on them and in some cases can add up to more than the worth of milk. One woman told me that she had asked permission to be absent from a month of activities due to her work. While she was absent, the rules were changed so that you could no longer ask permission to be absent. She was never advised of these changes and when she returned to the Vaso de Leche meetings and activities she had to pay a fine of 16 soles for the month, when the milk she had received was only worth a total of 10 soles.
Maria Trimble is an MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU