Despite being a few months pregnant, Génesis set out on foot with her husband and son for Colombia, where they hoped to find more stability. They walked for days at a time until their feet bled and blistered. But finding legal work as Venezuelans is difficult and the family had to live on the street, begging for food and facing discrimination and harassment for months before deciding to continue on to Peru where they have friends and a small semblance of a support network.
“It is not easy to sleep in the street. It isn’t easy to be constantly harassed by a policeman who follows you around, saying you can’t stay here, you can’t stay here either,” Génesis says. “I thought that once we got to Colombia we were going to be OK, but no.”
Venezuela is experiencing an unprecedented and man-made humanitarian crisis, causing a mass exodus of its people. An estimated 4.6 million have fled due to instability, hunger and poverty. Ninety-four percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line.
Women are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Trafficking networks operate near border crossings and there is evidence of transactional sex in exchange for food.