45 Women Take Part in a Pilot Leadership Program in Bolivia

by Calixta Choque Churata, Xiomara Sainz Salinas, and Zsófia Sztranyiczki


Program graduates with their certificates

The pilot leadership development program in Bolivia – implemented thanks to the generous support of people who contributed on Faithify, a UU crowd funding website – concluded on November 11, 2018. The bi-weekly training courses in sewing, hairdressing, and baking – over a three-month period – were complemented with workshops addressing Economic Empowerment and Economic Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Gender and Society (with a special topic on masculinity, machoism, and femicides), Prevention of Domestic/Family Violence, and Spirituality and Meditation.

The closing of the pilot program was a moving ceremony where the families of 40 out of the program’s 45 participants congregated in a shared lunch prepared by the participants themselves. The families included children, mothers, and relatives; a representative of the Board of Neighbors of the town of Viacha also honored the event with his presence.

viacha-bolivia-womens-leadership-training-programThe graduates of the program exhibited their works, talked about what they learned, their experiences, as well as their dreams and hopes. The sewing class displayed sportswear, cholita skirts, and jackets. The baking class provided cakes, pies, and puddings. The hairdressing class presented a variety of hairstyles, haircuts, makeups and fantasy makeups. The training course with the most participants was hairdressing; it also had the greatest number of young people (some in high school), who found in hairdressing a potential source of employment and income – since the course already enabled them to work during periods of high demand.

In thanking IWC for the opportunities that the program created, the women asked project leaders and the local team (Calixta Choque Churata, Xiomara Sainz Salinas, and Olga Flores Bedregal) to convey their desire to continue with this initiative. They feel the need to continue not only for themselves – but for their families as well.viacha-bolivia-womens-leadership-training-program3a

These courses were an inspiring spark for participants to think about paths to better livelihoods and to confront their situation of gender marginality. During the training, the participants established a neighborhood organization of women, realizing that a union would make them stronger: a sorority environment is the way to support each other and face hardships together. As Olga Flores Bedregal put it, “the more knowledge and tools are put in women´s hands, the more impact they will have toward a greater autonomy of women.”

The IWC is now looking forward to exploring next steps with the local team, building on the experiences of the pilot training.  The discussions will focus on program sustainability, developing capacities for long-term success, and strengthening women’s community.


Calixta (in green), with graduates
of the baking class

It was once said that a leader is someone who ‘lifts us up, gives us a reason for being and gives the vision and spirit to change.” Project leader Calixta Choque Churrata, who undertook most of the planning, organization, and logistics of the pilot program, is a leader who inspires. Here’s her message to everyone who supported the pilot program: “For my part, I thank you for making these training courses possible and bringing hope of improvement to the women of the District 7 and the municipality of Viacha, who are confronting many hardships. Thank you for encouraging us to look beyond and dream of the future.”



Delia (in the middle) with her certificate

Bolivia Pilot Program Participant Shares Her Experiences

My name is Delia Alexandra Fernández Vargas.

I am 18 years old. This is my last year of school. I want to go to the university. I am thinking of studying biochemistry.

I took the hairdressing training course because I like to learn hairstyles, hair care, new looks. I learned many useful things: for example, skin lightening, facial cleaning, hair care, massages, hair and skin hydration, new looks, and types of hair dyes. The teacher was very good. She knows her profession. I see myself doing hairstyles, hair dyes, or facial cleaning. I can offer these new skills.

This training will definitely help me in the future. I wish I could learn so much more. The training course lasted a short time.  I would recommend more classes per week and specific sessions (one day only for massages for example).

I am grateful for what I learned. My heartfelt thanks go to all the people who gave us the opportunity of taking these courses.

The President’s Column–Winter 2018

Arlene Johnson, President, International Women's Convocation

Arlene Johnson

We are pleased to announce that the International Women’s Convocation (IWC) received a $13,000 grant recently from the UU Funding Panel that will help us plan with the UU Women’s Federation and UU Women & Religion on how we might best work together going forward.  Even though we have different herstories and missions, we do have some common goals.  During our Third Convocation in California, February 2017, approximately 250 participants made it clear what their priorities were within the five streams (Economic Opportunity, Education, Health and Reproductive Justice, Leadership Development, and Violence Prevention), and where they thought UU women should focus their energies. This prompted us to explore how we might collaborate with other UU women’s organizations in USA. Currently, we are holding monthly conference calls and making plans to hold a weekend meeting in Boston with organizational leaders this fall.  We have invited Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President to attend.

I am happy to announce that our workshop proposal was accepted for General Assembly in Kansas City this June.  The title is #Me Too: Called to Challenge Systemic Patriarchy.  It will be held Saturday, June 23, 1:30 – 4:00 pm.  If you are planning to come to GA, please put this important workshop on your calendar.  Some of the goals are to recognize the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in all societies and the need to confront physical, sexual, economic bullying and abuse in systems of patriarchal authority; and, to support the victims of abuse.  After a panel discussion, we will break into small discussion groups to develop positive steps for moving forward.

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  We recommend that you and your congregation celebrate your international UU sisters and their work on behalf of women.  We are particularly proud of the great collaboration between Transylvanian women and the women of North East India (read about this inspiring story of cross-cultural connection on page 3 of the newsletter). We encourage congregations to share a plate collection with IWC during March or May to support our projects to improve women’s lives around the world.  We are also asking individuals to consider contributing to our crowd funding campaign that will benefit women in the Philippines and Bolivia (see page 2 of the newsletter).

Earlier this month, the International Council of Unitarian Universalists (ICUU) held its conference in Nepal and we were delighted that several of our IWC leaders attended and represented IWC.  Thank you to board members Phyllis Marsh (US) and Elgiva Shullai (India), former board members Creamlimon Nongbri (India) and Sharon Van Duizend (US), our Global Sisters Council member Dr. Rica Lamar (India) and stalwart networker and supporter Julie Steinbach (US).  Please see Sharon’s article on her time in Nepal (page 9 of the newsletter).

The IWC board and staff are now wrapping up a strategic planning process, expected to be completed by spring. We look forward to sharing the results of our strategic planning as we shape the road ahead for this organization.  Thank you for your generous support and your willingness to speak out on behalf of women!