People discussing in their GSG
Global Sisters Groups at the Gathering

2015 Bolivia

Semillas de Poder” – Seeds of Power comes from an old Mexican proverb that translates “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” This aptly describes the resilience and determination of the 60 women from around the world who attended IWC’s four-day Gathering in the Yungas region of Bolivia, November 12-15, 2015, on the invitation of Olga Flores Bedregal, a human rights activist and leader of a small UU community in La Paz.

The Gathering's theme was Women, the Earth, Climate Change, and Spirituality. The proceedings were delivered in two languages, Spanish and English, aided by two professional translators. Empowerment of women was a recurring theme, along with the determination to fight the devastation of climate change and the promise to stay connected in order to meet those challenges.

Speakers included Carmen Capriles, founder of Reacción Climática and Kiyomi Nagumo, regional coordinator for Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, who gave impassioned talks about the challenges that Bolivian women face. Olga Flores called for women to stay connected to their spirituality as a way of combating the irrational demands of an increasingly materialistic and capitalistic system that was damaging the environment. Dr. Susan Walsh, Executive Director of the Canadian Unitarian Service Committee presented their Seeds for Survival project, which works with small-scale family farmers – many of them women – in the poverty-stricken, mining-damaged mountains in the Potosi Department.

Women’s leadership and empowerment, water shortage, and environmental education emerged as priority issues from the six Global Sisters groups.

Following the Gathering, a Facebook group, Semillas de Poder was created for communication, support, and follow-up action. A pilot leadership training program in Bolivia – identified as a key need at the 2015 Gathering – was implemented in 2019 thanks to the generous support of people who contributed on Faithify, a UU crowd funding website. The program continues, focusing on developing capacities for long-term success and strengthening grassroots women’s leadership.

Australian UU James Hills documented the event, producing a high-quality professional video: