Women with a mission in La Paz, Bolivia

Peace on earth, the freedom to make your own decisions, is what the leaders of Catolicas Por El Derecho A Decider in La Paz pray for.
Men make decisions for their women when they get married: How many children they get, when they can visit a friend, the approval for a medicine…. and a lot more. The leaders in La Paz are on a mission, they want to inform women about their rights and their possibilities in Bolivia.



Before speaking with the local leaders of Catolicas Por El Derecho A Decidir about their mission, we made an offering of seeds and water to Pachamama (Mother Earth). Together we prayed for women inside and outside La Paz, for a brighter future where men and women are equal! It was a special moment to experience.

offering

“I wanted to end my pregnancy, but my husband forbid me to do so”

We spoke with three incredible and strong leaders of the organization in La Paz:

Eugenia “I need my husband’s permission to leave the house”

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She’s 60 years old, makes handmade clothes and sells it to friends and family, she has 4 children and is married.
She found a very nice husband, but in the beginning he was super jealous and therefore she couldn’t leave the house. “He expected me to cook, clean, wash and that’s it. I spoke with other women in my village and some of them were studying and I wanted the same!” Eventually she was allowed to take some courses and after their children were old enough her husband changed his perception. Since then she can do whatever she wants as long as she tells him. She’s is super happy that she can inform and help other women and she wants to do this until her last day!

Encarnacion “Women who want to explore are not worthy.”



She’s 41 years old, bakes cookies and cakes and sells it on the local market, she has 5 children and is married. 
“My dad was an alcoholic and hit my mother on a daily base. My mother protected us, so we stayed unharmed. One thing I know for sure is that I didn’t want to end up with a guy like my father. I found a super sweet man, but his family was horrible. They told him many times that women who wanted to explore are not worthy. So I was not allowed to do anything (work, study.. etc.) and I had to stay home. It got better when other women in our village talked about projects where they learned to sew and cook. This is how I learned to cook even better and eventually I got in contact with Catolicas por el derecho a decider where I now give workshops to my own village people. My husband supports me completely and his family has to deal with it.

Alejandra “I wanted to end my pregnancy, but my husband forbid me to do so”

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She’s 24 years old, studies Communication on the University in La Paz, she has one little daughter of 4 years old and she’s divorced.
Alejandra got accidentally pregnant when she was 20 years old. She wanted to end her pregnancy, because she was still studying, they didn’t had money and her relationship wasn’t that great, but her husband forbid her to do so. He humiliated her when he found out that she wanted to kill their baby. She didn’t have another option, so decided to keep it. Within a few weeks her husband left her and their child for another woman. Luckily her parents helped her out and so she continued her study. She is in her last year, she gives workshops and leisure’s about the possibilities for women on high schools. She talks with young girls in the hope that they have the opportunity to make their own decisions. She’s super optimistic about her future.

Workshops at High school 
After lunch we traveled together with some of the leaders to a Highschool where Catolicas por el derecho a decider gives workshops to young children about gender equality and more. A big problem with young female women is that they get pregnant on a young age and they have no idea what their options are. This day they introduced something new, a card game with questions: What would you do when you got pregnant? Is it OK to enjoy seks? Where to go to when you are pregnant? They try to inform children in a fun way.


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Donate!

One of our reporters Renske appointed it perfectly in her article: “You read a lot about Servië, Iran and Eretria, but we only read about Bolivia in travel magazines. 
The prays and life lessons of these leaders plus the workshops of Mensen met een missie are needed as you can tell. Please donate of you haven’t done yet here!!!

Love,

Sarah

Gender Equality in Agua Blanca, Bolivia

A bumpy road with lots of llamas and alpacas along the way with breathtaking views. After a 12 hour drive from La Paz we arrived at a small village called Agua Blanca (named after the rivers and waterfalls over here) near the border of Peru. Together with Yolanda and a priest of the organization ISEAT we visited the local village people and lived with them for 3 days. Around 100 families live in this village, nestled between snow-capped mountains. 1300 ft above sea level without any mobile and internet connection. But is that important when you have your friends and families around you and views like these? I was here to talk to the men and women about gender equality.

Agua Blanca

The workshops
The leaders of the village get monthly workshops by ISEAT – an organization of theologians supported by ‘Mensen met een Missie’- . An important topic here is also gender equality and gender-based violence between men and women. Almost half of the women in this village are single, they don’t have faith in men or left their men. The leaders tell us that violence against women is thankfully getting less and that you already see the difference. Men help out in householding and take over some of the tasks from their wives.


The leaders of Agua Blanca


Even more happy together after the workshops

The Future of Women in Agua Blanca
Some of the women and men here, follow the workshops of ISEAT and Mensen Met een Missie. According to them you will find not as much violence in their village like in the bigger cities. There’s still some physical and psychological violence against women but you won’t see that 0ut in the open. Things are getting better.


An interview with the people of the village in their church

The people in Agua Blanca are sincerely and unbelievable friendly

 


Lama’s welcoming us upon arrival

Now it’s time to head back to La Paz where me and my reporters team will have a day to rest before saying goodbye and heading to the salt lakes of Bolivia!

Love,

Sarah

*All pictures are shot by Ilsoo van Dijk

A memorable day in Bolivia

For some women in the world the 8th of March is just another ordinary day, but for women in Bolivia it is ‘the day’ that they fight against violence. We marched on the streets in Sucre (Bolivia) with around 50 women who all have something in common; they are humiliated and scarred for life. I’ve asked myself the question, will this ever stop?!

Sucre – ‘la ciudad blanca’ or white city, is the capital of Bolivia which lies at an elevation of 2,810 meters. Many of the buildings in the center of this beautiful white-washed town date back to the 16th century.  It’s famous for it’s historic buildings, indigenous culture, nightlife, bars and restaurants. An old-world charm place that is unlike any other. It seems so peaceful, but a lot happens behind doors.

A memorable day in Bolivia we will never forget!

In the early morning we walked with our group of volunteers to the Levantate de Mujer office where around 50 women were ready to march the streets of Sucre. And we marched with them!

They were holding brown papers and shouted what rights they should and want to have: the right to study, the right to work, the right to choose who to marry…… To make an end to discrimination based on gender!




Interview with local radio and tv!

We gathered around at Playa Major with lots of other women and luckily also some men.
Aracely, 21 years old – Marilena, 17 years –  Ligia, 36 year – these are a few of the names and ages of women who are murdered, beaten to dead or burned. These names are visible on a ribbon of waving flags on the square. The leaders of Levantate de Mujer gave interviews to local radio and tv shows. The problem is clearly visible today and that’s definitely needed.


Ribbon of waving flags of women who are murdered, beaten to dead or burned

In the afternoon we spoke with some of the women who participate in projects of Levantate de Mujer. 

Patricia – “My husband punched me several times. I got 3 fractured ribs and a damaged face and more.. But even worse, he physically humiliated me.”


Tears in her eyes

Her story got me. She closed her eyes and began her story:
” I haven a violent past, my husband punched me several times. I got 3 fractured ribs and a damaged face and a lot more.. But even worse, he physically humiliated me. I wasn’t good enough for him and my children. He tortured one of  my children and she died. I still didn’t know what to do, so I let him do his thing for many years. Eventually I got in contact with this organization via a neighbor. I left my husband and I’m still so happy that I did! My children an I spoke with a psychologist and we learned how to move forward. I want to be there for my children, so therefore I learned how to cook, sew etc. I got my confidence back and my children do much better!”

We cried with her and we were quiet for a few minutes….

There’s still a lot of violence against women, but with the help of the workshops of Mensen met Een Missie  there’s an opportunity for these women!
So if you haven’t donated yet, than please do
here!

You will find more info about Levantate de Mujer and Mensen Met een Missie here

All images are shot by Ilsoo van Dijk 


Love, 

Sarah

International Women’s Day: Violence against women in Bolivia

You won’t see me sipping on cocktails on a white sandy beach these next couple of weeks. Nope, this time you will see me visiting various local organizations in Bolivia for Dutch organisation ‘Mensen met een Missie’. Wander-Lust and a group of volunteers are here to support the human rights for women.  


Women from different backgrounds at Levantate Mujer in Sucre with all the reporters 

There’s a lot of violence against women in Bolivia. Seven out of the ten women are dealing with physical or sexual abuse. I haven’t seen any violence in the streets in Bolivia so far, but it happens at home where you won’t see it.

I thought it was normal that my husband physically humiliated me – Patricia

‘Mensen met een Missie’ supports young people and victims and I got the chance to talk with these women and to share their stories with you.
Today it’s International Women’s day, the day where we celebrate women’s achievements and opportunities worldwide. A very important day for these women in Bolivia.

The Women from Bolivia with a story:

1. Jacqueline
“I learned to be independent”

A woman of 37 with two kids of 17 (student of a university) and 11 (student) wasn’t afraid to share her story. She was a victim of violence, but not anymore.
She learned via workshops how to stand up for yourself, how to treat your kids and how to be independent. She has her own business in kids clothes and is happy that her kids are doing great. She’s very thankful that she got the support which helped her to be where she is right now.

2. Patricia
“I thought it was normal that my husband physically humiliated me”



My husband told me day in and out that I was stupid, not good enough for our kids, that I was ugly and a lot more. I got in contact with Levantate Mujer (local organisation which Mensen met een Missie supports) via my neighbours and after a few workshops from Mensen met een Missie I learned that it was not normal how my husband treated me. Within a few weeks Patricia got an enormous amount of confidence and decided to leave her husband. She learned how to educate her children (5 kids between 4 and 15) and her goal is to give them a ‘normal’ future. She now works on a local market where she sells bags and more handcrafted items.

3. Noellia
“I got beaten up by my husband several times in the past, but he changed since he started following the workshops of Mensen met een Missie.”



I met this young and talented mother of 2 kids at Levantate Mujer in Sucre. She told us that her husband changed since he got in contact with this organisation.  “Before he didn’t accept that women study, but now he does. He’s is a different man and he supports me in my ways. I now study history and work as a teacher at Levantate Mujer.”

“They all survived, but not all of them have. Some go back to their husband anyway.”

About Mensen met een Missie
Mensen met een Missie was founded in 1931 and is involved in about 350 initiatives of partner organizations in 16 target countries, Africa, Asia and Latin America. They join forces and coordinate their program with other stakeholders in each of the 16 countries. One of the countries is Bolivia, where they support local organisation Fundacion Levantate Mujer in 5 different cities. Levantate Mujer, means women who stand up’ is the organization who helps women to build up an independent life and teach them the rights for women (that’s it not normal that their husband is beaten them up).  These women have has a hard time: now money to feed their kids and there was no place where they could go to. Finally there’s a place where they can go to.

One of the things they are focusing on is reducing the violence against women by learning women what their rights are. Mensen met een Missie is supporting this topic with workshops. Women get the change to enter one of the shelter homes of Fundacion Levantate Mujer where they learn how to cook, sew, knitting and more for free.



Women learn how to sew

They also have the opportunity to learn how to work with computers. 
Mensen met een Missie offers workshops every month where women get informed about women rights and how to educate their kids. This local organisation offers child service upstairs for their kids between 2.5-5 years old and for kids from 5-6 years old they help out with school stuff for their children that go to school. This way they make it a lot easier for women to take courses and workshops since they don’t have to babysit.

Hopefully it’s gives you a better understanding of where the money will go when you donate. If you haven’t done so yet then please do! It’s a beautiful initiative and they need your help to keep on supporting these women!

Donate here

All images are shot by Ilsoo van Dijk 

Love,

Sarah