For the first time, indigenous women in central Bolivia are demanding their rightsÑand getting them. In the sparsely populated Cochabamba district, Quechua women have developed a series of educational and media tools to help raise awareness about their rights. Throughout Bolivia, half of which is rural, poverty and illiteracy predominate and opportunities for advancement, especially for indigenous peoples, are hard to come by. For the women of Cochabamba, the situation has been dire. A 50 percent rate of illiteracy and the reality of living in far-flung communities make it difficult to share resources and strategies for empowerment.
But two years ago, the Institute for Peasants’ Training and Education, a local activist group, began a series of workshops that explained women’s legal rights. The Quechua women then called for a campaign for women’s rights and the institute responded. They began linking women’s groups from six municipalities in the region and launched a weekly radio program called Women’s Voices.
The overwhelming success of that initiative led to the creation of a bilingual booklet (in Spanish and Quechua) illustrating women’s constitutional rights. Throughout the pamphlet, women are depicted as witty and powerful. They are shown answering men’s questions about human rights, discrimination, and contraception.
Alberto Borda, executive director of the institute, says that one example of the campaign’s success came when women won three out of five seats that were up for grabs in municipal elections held last December in the Vacas zone of Cochabamba. “This is exceptional for all of Bolivia,” Borda says.
To keep the political momentum going, the institute is teaming up with women’s groups in the area to host seminars that focus on politics and community development for rural women. “The workshops will help rural women get the ear of government officials,” says Borda. “Now they can change the issues that concern their lives.”
LEARN MORE Click here to read women’s narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.