Bolivia Report: Invisible Women

photo courtesy of Sandy Grubb

photo courtesy of Sandy Grubb

While Susan Storm of the Fantastic Four reveled in her ability to be invisible, there are over five million women in Bolivia who dream of the opposite, becoming visible.

In Bolivia, the invisible woman is just “a wall” in her house. She is part of her husband’s property, with no right to own property of her own. She labors all day in the fields but receives no credit for contributing to the family income. She has no say in how money is spent in her household. She is not valued enough to see a doctor when ill. She is three times more likely than her husband to be illiterate. While Bolivia has passed multiple laws in the past twenty years to assure her rights are protected, the reality of stubborn tradition weighs her down.

But, where World Vision is working, this is all changing. The indigenous Bolivian woman is coming out of the shadows. Our team of ten women from the Portland/Vancouver Women of Vision group was in Bolivia last month to learn about the work World Vision is doing to repair the gender gap.

World Vision is a strong advocate at all levels of government for the rights of women and girls in Bolivia. They have launched Channels of Hope for Gender within the community and the church. They are also hosting retreats for married couples. But perhaps the most powerful intervention so far is economic empowerment.

One of the women in a knitting association reported, “Our husbands at first would forbid us to join this association. They would grab us by the neck. Now that we are making money they support us.”

Another said, “Before we could not feed our children, now we can.”

When asked how her life has changed since receiving World Vision’s training and joining the knitting association, another woman answered, “My husband doesn’t yell any more. He wears what I knit. Our husbands have learned to work the fields by themselves. And now there is more money than before.”

We asked her if her husband tried to control her money. She quickly answered, “No way Jose!”

With almost 200 women in just one small community involved in various associations—knitting, weaving, hot pepper sauce, guinea pig production—the future is looking bright for women and their families in Bolivia.

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