hairdressing workshop take 2 oct 2021
Hairdressing Workshop Participants

Bolivian Leadership Training Resumes

By Calixta Choque Churata, Project Coordinator

Thanks to the generous support of IWC members and friends, a 2019 fundraising campaign aiming to expand a leadership development program in District 7 Viacha (near La Paz, the Bolivian capital) met with success.

On March 13, 2020, a month after the launch of the project, the initiative was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A week later, Bolivia went into national lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Due to the expectation and demand for training on the part of some of the participants, we tried to implement the courses through virtual means via Google Meet, Zoom, and WhatsApp. In addition, we engaged Amelia Peña, who created the WhatsApp support group called "Learning to Love Me."

However, no sooner had we started than we concluded that this would be an impossible task: internet coverage was unreliable, and many of the participants did not have the necessary resources (computer, phone with internet data) or skills in utilizing the communication platforms. Recognizing the deficiencies in technological competencies, Ms. Peña decided to give classes about the use of cell phones. However, the planned classes had to be suspended for lack of interest.

Sewing workshop October 2021
Thankfully, as the COVID-19 situation improved, on October 4, 2021 we resumed the in-person workshops in baking/preparing healthy foods, hairdressing, and sewing. On average, 20 participated in each workshop. These courses enabled us to reach many people from various surrounding areas; participants included younger women as well (aged 15 to 49).

It was specifically stated that the courses are only for women, but three men insisted on participating. Since these courses have been taking place in La Ceja, the “Eyebrow” District of El Alto, and so relatively far from where participants live, we accommodated the request.

The traditional Bolivian celebration of All Saints

Baking Workshop 2 October 2021
Day and the Day of the Dead (November 1-3) involve preparation of breads and other sweets. Breads are baked into symbolic shapes such as angels, bulls (representing prosperity), and ladders (to help the dead ascend to heaven). Many prepare a small offering table in their homes for the souls of their departed loved ones to enjoy.

Baking Workshop October 2021
In addition, Bolivians prepare an altar on the grave with bread figures, candy, fruits, and pastries. In the baking/preparing healthy foods workshop, participants made bread figures; given the strong interest in this activity, an extra class was organized.

Sewing Workshop 2 Oct 2021
Ms. Anna María Maynasa de Gutierrez, a specialist in making “polleras” (a long, full, pleated skirt), is leading the sewing courses. In this workshop, women decided to make “pollera” skirts according to the latest fashion. The pollera, symbol of Bolivian culture, is experiencing a revival. The Autonomous Municipal Government of La Paz has recently decided to establish a "Comprehensive School for Women in Pollera,” and the mayor of El Alto (adjacent to La Paz) is leading by example: she wears a skirt at public events.

Thank you to IWC and all project donors for trusting us.