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VIDEO: In Bolivia, Indigenous Women Draw Society's Short Straw

Marisol is an indigenous leader in Cochabamba, Bolivia who, like many indigenous women, had to migrate to the city in search of better opportunities. She is one of the women who speaks out in a series of video interviews by Periodismo Humano [es] about women in Bolivian society. “Being a woman and indigenous here is the worst thing that can happen to you,” she says.

The women interviewed from all walks of life, tell a story that shows having two X chromosomes in Bolivia is a liability. Women receive less education and lower incomes, and although women's participation in politics is growing, Bolivia's female leaders still struggle to make their voices heard.

Mario Munera Rodríguez, the journalist who wrote and produced the series, writes [es]:

El dibujo social en el que se enclava la mujer boliviana viene dado por el contraste de, por un lado lo que allá definen como agringados o personas que desean imitar los estilos de vida (a ojos de) capitalistas y por el otro el de aquellas y aquellos que tienen raíces y se niegan a dejarlas atras.

The social pattern in which Bolivian women are locked is due to the contrast between, on one hand those defined as agringados or those who want to imitate the capitalist (in their eyes) lifestyle and on the other, those who have roots and refuse to leave them behind.


The second video [es] deals with girls and their access to education. In the video, Munera reports:

Según el INE [Instituto Nacional de Estadistica] 2001 en Bolivia, la tasa de analfabetismo de mujeres es de 19,35 por ciento, mientras la tasa de analfabetismo masculinos es del 6,94 por ciento. En el campo el analfabetismo femenino es del 37,91 por ciento, en contraposición al masculino que es de un 14,42 por ciento.

La educación de la mujer es muy importante. La escolaridad alcanzada por las mujeres influye directamente en las condiciones de salud, nutrición y supervivencia de los hijos. Asimismo, incide en la mortalidad materna.

According to the INE (National Institute of Statistics) 2001 in Bolivia, the illiteracy rate for females is 19.35%, while the illiteracy rate for males is 6.94%. In rural areas, female illiteracy rates are 37.91% in contrast to male rates of 14.42%.

Educating women is very important. Schooling for women directly influences health, nutrition and child survival rates. It also affects maternal mortality.

Sonia, a sociologist interviewed in the video, says that “education in Bolivia is very sexist. In reality, girls are ignored.”


In the third video, Munera explores the participation of women in politics [es]. The article that accompanies the video includes the following quotes:

“Muchas han tenido que usar la violencia para hacerse respetar, para ponerles el límite al hombre”

“Many have had to use violence to be respected, to create some boundaries for men.”

“Los hombres piensan que las mujeres son para que se recreen incluso en estas circunstancias, de compañeras en la política”

“Men think that women are for their entertainment, even in these circumstances, as colleagues in politics.”

“Se busca a las mujeres para alistarlas dentro de los partidos políticos postulantes al gobierno y tratan de cumplir con el 30% de participación de las mujeres, pero nominalmente”

“They look for women to enlist in politics as candidates for government posts and they try to make perhaps a 30% participation rate for women, but only nominally.”

“Todavía los hombres toman las decisiones y las mujeres tienen sólo que levantar la mano”

“The men still make the decisions and the women just have to raise their hands.”

“El gobierno han cooptado a muchos de los intelectuales y pensadores de izquierda que nos decían sobre por dónde debíamos ir”

“The government has co-opted many intellectuals and thinkers of the left who were telling us where we needed to go.”

“Quienes hemos estado cuestionando la política del gobierno, no de manera destructiva y quienes no somos de derechas, hemos sido las organizaciones de mujeres”

“Those who have been questioning government policy, not destructively, and not right wing, have been the women's organizations.”



Finally, in the fourth and last video [es], Munera stresses that “sexual and gender violence represents 70% of reported assaults in the country.” In a series of interviews, a coordinator, a sociologist and a psychologist explain the context in which the female victims of male violence live in Bolivia.

The video ends with a series of black and white photos, but it states beforehand: “No men wanted to participate in the making of this documentary.”

Azucena Ramos, Jaime Fraire, Libanez, Maggie S, and Molly Allison-Baker contributed with subtitling the videos in the post.
This post was originally published in Spanish in March 2012.

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