Issue - February 2007



February 2007
Canarito Pampeno

For the last nine years the children of La Cancha have had an opportunity to escape from the busy streets of the market into the care of the Centro Canarito Pampeño where they are given assistance with schoolwork and have the chance to play safely in a protected environment...read more...

February 2007

25 Years of Aiding For Needful Women

by Daniel Vanello

On 6th of October, the "Instituto de Formación Femenina Integral (IFFI)" celebrated its 25th anniversary. For this reason, I had an interview with the director for Women and Gender Equality, Monica A. Novillo G. This organization was founded in 1981 for political reasons- since in those years there was the dictatorial government run by Luis Garcia Meza- to secure civilian's rights. Equality between people was their main aim. The goal then shifted towards the role of women. This was brought about by the economical crisis of Bolivia in 1985. Because of this economical fall, the organization became involved in the rights of the worker in the production of goods. It was noticed that women did not dispose of the same privileges, if they can be called as such, as men. This is when it all began.

Nowadays, the organization groups other small organizations together and works in five main fields: women in politics, more specifically in the government; woman in the working place, securing all her rights and ameliorating working conditions; nutrition: educating people on the alimentary security; women and sexual reproduction, also in this case education having a central role; and finally the role of women in justice, domestic violence being the main stage for such abuses.

Commenting on the latter topic, women and domestic violence, Monica Novillo informs me of the march which had been organized and which took place November 24, celebrating the International Day of Non-Violence against Women. The main impetus of the movement in the field of justice is to change the collective image of Woman. Laws for the protection of women are passed extremely slowly, if at all, because of the way in which man still perceives the feminine role; a mentality which penetrates all realms, politics included.

Of course, one of the principal causes for this closed and obtuse perception on justice is the institution of the Catholic Church. Whenever there is a political dispute, the ecclesiastical authority takes on the role of the mediator, a proof of how the practical side of the theoretical secularization of the state has not been maintained. Assuming this role, the church can then have a heavy influence on the final governmental decisions, naturally always opting for a conservative judgement, most of the times bringing the woman to subjection.

Another field where the church has the right to put its hands on is education, including the sexual one, preventing social reforms to be passed, such as legal abortion and family planning. Just like in many other situations, the Bolivian people contradict their beliefs, although in a positive manner. A person may very well define her/himself as a Christian, in this case as a Catholic, but practically opt for unorthodox behaviour, such as the already mentioned family planning. Let us not forget that abortion is still illegal in this country, and when such an injustice is intermingled with abusive sexual violence, it results that women, most of the times under the age of eighteen, are not able to get rid of a foetus caused by a rape. The same Church, once the foetus will become a child, will discriminate the latter. This is one of the many unjust vicious circles created by the ecclesiastical dogmatic view on woman. Naturally, there exists clandestine abortion practiced by doctors who are courageous enough to risk their career (and some years of their life) to help these women. Furthermore, abortion is usually a trauma that is overcome with difficulty, especially if the society does not recognize its necessity.

Inevitably, the Morales government is mentioned. What I find out is that in this new government's plan there is no actual procedure to transform the feminine social stigmatization, but in the government's attitude there have been improvements. In fact, the present Secretary of State, Alicia Muñoz Ála, is a woman who has already shown her strong political capabilities. It is not a surprising fact, though; it has been noticed many times in history that whenever there is a revolutionary movement which seeks to bring change and freedom, the woman always justly profits from it to demonstrate its true potential.

Interestingly, when I ask about the nature of this movement, whether it should be considered a revolutionary one or not, I get an unexpected answer. The only reason why it cannot be called revolutionary as such is that, although they can influence the admission of a law in government, which causes an abrupt change, the mentality of the people who should obey the judicial change, is difficult to shift towards a tolerant one. The dichotomy between the abstract and physical sides of the law showing how the conversion of a static attitude, towards gender roles, into a dynamic one needs time.

Putting aside politics and revolutionary, or not, movements, I would like to spend a few words on the interviewed person and on her striking optimism. Her view is that although Bolivia is constituted of many cultures, a factor which in one of my previous articles has been defined as the primary reason for the absence of a united feminist movement, the need for justice cannot be hindered. This is because, for example, domestic violence is a phenomenon which does not take in consideration class, ethnicity, or age. She does concede that in this society "differences are translated into exclusiveness", but it seems as in her opinion similarities can overcome differentiation. It is not significant whether you are part of an indigenous pueblo or a descendant of the Spanish colonizers, if you are a woman who is being abused, your only need is a feeling for security which will destroy any social or ethnic barrier. One of the actions taken by the organization against this cross-cultural violent male demeanour is he employment of a group of lawyers who aid any woman who wants any kind of judicial support.

Monica A. Novillo G. is one of the first people with whom I managed to group enough information with solely five questions. Her talkative side, in my view, is a metaphor for the huge motivation these women are bestowing on their work since 1981. Needless to say, our society is still thirsty, most of the times unconsciously, for a massive dose of tolerance between the sexual roles and the conscious removal of stereotypes, which such institutions -which only in 2006 helped more than 13,000 people in merely six districts of Cochabamba- are managing to, achieve.

The "Inca Trail"
In August 1990, archeologists Antonio Paolillo and Ricardo Céspedes organized an expedition to the Parque Nacional Carrasco to cover the Inca trail regarding the "cocales" situated in the Yungas of Arepucho. An article published in the Ligabue Magazine tells about the discovery of this pre-Hispanic trail and the presence of a rock with petrography situated in the community of San Pedro...
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