In Peru, the national COVID-19 lockdown began on Sunday 16 March 2020. In Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon and the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by car, the shutdown was especially isolating for surrounding ribereñas, river communities.
Teachers were no longer able to visit their schools in these remote and historically marginalised areas. In addition, without electricity, internet, and other such facilities children were unable to access televised educational programming.
Tanith Peña Araujo is a kindergarten school teacher who has worked in the community of Nueve de Diciembre for ten years. She became concerned about the lack of access to education for her own students as well as for many others in the region.
She began a fundraising campaign to distribute radios to ribereñas, calling the project Un Niño Una Radio, “One Child One Radio”. Araujo’s efforts came under fire from government officials for defying the hierarchy of the educational system. Yet in under two months, Araujo collected over 11,200 soles (USD 3,700) in donations.
While following safety precautions, teachers and volunteers distributed care packages, childrens’ masks, and 447 radios to 27 communities – a testament to the power of locally-grounded grassroots organizing.
Diana Tung is a PhD candidate in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University. Her research focuses on the commercialisation of the aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa) palm fruit in the Peruvian Amazon. She currently based in Iquitos, where she volunteered as a photographer for the Un Niño Una Radio campaign. (Image: Tanith Peña Araujo distributing radios to a ribereña community on the outskirts of Iquitos, July 2020.)
For more on Antipode’s “Conjunctural Insurrections” series – an experiment to amplify voices often unheard and invisibilised in politics, daily life, and academic discourse – see https://antipodeonline.org/2020/06/23/conjunctural-insurrections/