Participatory Budgeting is the process through which the civic society and the government get together to decide the investment budget of a municipality. Mario, Nicolas, Shaun, and I are filming a documentary about the practice of Participatory Budgeting in the poorest areas of Lima, Peru. For the first time in Peruvian history, the most marginalized sectors of society get the chance to not only give their opinion but also to decide where the investment in infrastructure and social programs should be allocated.

The meeting was planned to be at 10:00 am on a Sunday morning. Very few people had showed up by then. We had the camera ready and the auditorium of the Municipality of Comas, one of the suburbs of Lima, was beginning to fill up. The invitees were the leaders of the social organizations of the district, one of the poorest but best organized areas of Lima. There we saw her: an old lady of innocent eyes and a blue hat, waiting anxious for the meeting to start. She was holding papers with a signature that looked more like a drawing to us. Illiterate and extremely poor, this woman called Griselda was advocating for the construction of a homeless shelter. Mario and I approached her and we started a conversation about her life. It was 10:25 and the meeting was not even close to get started. So, we kept talking to her. She had become a natural representative of the poor by being poor herself. She had noticed that all her friends, all of them old people, did not have resources to afford the meal of the day. She had mobilized an important group of people that were in the same circumstances to start an organization called Niño Jesús. As the meeting started, we had to stop the conversation. We took notes of her address and promised to visit her at her house.

We understood she was a potential character for our documentary, but never imagined that we would find out what we actually found when we went to her house. Her son of 60 years old opened the door and told us to wait outside. Griselda! said Mario.

To be continued…