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GOAL $5,000 Grassroots women’s leadership is vital to gender equality and to developing resilient, sustainable communities. The program supports marginalized Bolivian women and girls in becoming a powerful force for change in their families and communities by building income-generating and leadership skills as well as developing self-esteem, confidence, and capacities for long-term success.
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Background. The project builds on a pilot leadership development program implemented with funds raised on Faithify in 2018.  It took place in District 7 of Viacha (near the Bolivian capital, La Paz), home to indigenous Aymara, where women are mostly street vendors (and thus part of the informal economy). The initiative consisted of bi-weekly training courses in sewing, hairdressing, and baking, over a three-month period (August-October 2018). The practical trainings were complemented with workshops addressing economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, leadership, gender and society (with a special topic on masculinity, machoism, and femicides), prevention of domestic violence, and spirituality and meditation. The training was an inspiring spark for the 45 participants to think about paths to better livelihoods and to confront their situation of gender marginality. Project leader Calixta Choque Churata, a Unitarian from Viacha, would now like “to move forward and reach more women and girls who feel the need to be trained and empowered.” Given the success of the pilot training, interest in the continuation of the program is high. Please read more information about the pilot program here.

How will the funds be used? Funds will be used to implement practical courses in cooking and developing healthy food habits, hairdressing, sewing and making eco products; as well as leadership training focusing on capacity building in areas such as self-esteem development, gender equality, economic empowerment and entrepreneurial skills, prevention of violence, environmental education, and women in environmental decision-making. The participants will be selected by the local organizing team. Training sessions will take place twice weekly, over three months. Funds will be used for educational materials, training supplies, logistics, and the cost of trainers. The participants will enhance their ability to better manage their finances, be confident of their rights, and have a marketable skill. These results will decrease their level of vulnerability and discrimination and increase their ability to be financially independent. Graduates of the program can become resource persons for future training sessions.

Project Endorsements

Calixta, in green, with graduates of the baking class

Calixta Choque Churata, project leader (text of the video above): Life for women in Bolivia is difficult. “Machismo” culture is deeply entrenched. Sexism, misogyny, and violence are everyday occurrences. Many women are economically inactive and have limited job opportunities. That is why I believe that this program is a great opportunity for economically disadvantaged and marginalized women in Viacha to acquire tools and skills, gain confidence, develop leadership competencies, and achieve greater economic independence. This program offers marketable job skills – such as sewing, cooking or hairdressing – as well as business and leadership training. When women and girls are provided with training and entrepreneurial opportunities, they can challenge patriarchal norms and stereotypes; they can enter the workforce, build better livelihoods, and take on leadership roles in their communities. They can become role models to others. They can even start their own income-generating businesses. Please consider pledging to this project to give these women a dream. A dream to improve her livelihood. A dream to reach her financial independence. A dream to become a leader in her community. A dream to create her own future. Thank you! Gracias!

Participants in the Pilot Program

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

Katharin Maldonado Tarqui: I am 14 years old. I come from a family with very limited resources. I took part in the hairdressing courses, which helped me get a job as a hairdresser’s assistant, during weekends, to supplement our small family income. I would like to continue this practical workshop as well as learn as much as I can about leadership and entrepreneurship – which will help me in my future. Who knows, I may be able to put my training towards starting my own business!

Project Partners. The Bolivian organizing team is made up of Unitarians from La Paz and surroundings. The project leaders, Calixta Choque Churata and Xiomara Salinas, attended IWC’s 2015 Gathering in Bolivia; Xiomara also attended IWC’s Third Women’s Convocation in California (February 2017). Our project partner is also the Unitarian Universalist community of La Paz, Bolivia (Comunidad Unitaria Universalista Boliviana).

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