Group Photo Bolivia

Marginalized Bolivian Women Creating Change

By Calixta Choque Churata and Zsófia Sztranyiczki

IWC’s project in District 7 of Viacha (near La Paz, the Bolivian capital) – supporting marginalized Bolivian women in becoming a powerful force for change in their families and communities by building income-generating and leadership skills as well as developing capacities for long-term success – resumed in October 2021, following a hiatus of 18 months brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hairdressing Bolivia
Workshops in baking/preparing healthy foods, hairdressing, and sewing were implemented over a three-month period, offering opportunities for participants, part of the informal economy, to decrease their level of vulnerability and discrimination and increase their ability to be financially independent.

pastry workshop exhibition
In December, the practical workshops were complemented with a series of online and in-person training sessions on leadership skills, female leadership and climate change, entrepreneurship, prevention of violence against women and girls, and environmental education.

Resource persons on leadership and entrepreneurship included Elvira Espejo Ayca, former director of the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore in La Paz, and politician Alejandra Camargo Tanabe, from the Chamber of Deputies of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia. Ms. Camargo talked about what it means to be an artisan and how to start a business as an artisan, emphasizing the importance of branding/customizing one’s own products while creating green products and avoiding the use of plastics. She offered help including legal advice and encouraged the women not to be afraid to put what they have learned during the practical courses to good use, which could lead to greater economic autonomy and financial independence.

Psychologist/therapist Patricia Miranda talked about the values ​​of being a woman and offered insights and tools to help develop an awareness of oneself, build self-esteem, and actively build and maintain a healthy sense of self-worth to achieve fulfillment and happiness.

Violence Prevention Bolivia
Speakers from the Getsemaní Foundation addressed violence against women and children, and representatives of the Pro Pacha environmental organization talked about global warming and climate change as well as the importance of sustainable behaviors. All the participants in the seminars promised to take action starting with selective garbage collection and recycling at the exhibition that concluded the practical courses.

graduates with certificates bolivia
Women with Their Certificates

The program concluded on December 20 with the presentation of certificates of completion to the 49 graduates and an exhibition of the results of the training. Exhibits included “pollera” (traditional long pleated) skirts, panettone, and other pastries, breads, and a fashion show displaying various men’s and women’s hairstyles.

Pastry Workshop Exhibition
Virginia Gutierrez Alarcon, participant in the program, said “The practical course in baking and developing healthy food habits has offered support for the good nutrition of our children. It has also helped us to be united and to value ourselves as women.” As one of the local team members put it, "IWC can be very proud to have driven the empowerment of 49 women and their families."