by Calixta Choque Churata, Xiomara Sainz Salinas, and Zsófia Sztranyiczki
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.
The 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.
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.
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.”
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.