1. Discrimination against indigenous people has been profound and widespread throughout the history of Bolivia. Discrimination against indigenous women has been particularly entrenched as they have faced triple discrimination on the basis of their social and ethnic origin as well as their gender.
2. Historically there has been very little awareness among the Aymara population in general and among Aymara women in particular of their human rights in general and even less awareness of communication and information rights as citizens. With high levels of illiteracy, they live in conditions of extreme poverty and a high percentage have no access to basic facilities.
3. Some of the obstacles faced by the organisers included the long distances which meant many of the women had to walk hours to get to the training venue; initial mistrust on the part of traditional Aymara authorities to the idea of training for the women in their communities, and the fear of the women themselves to speak up their mind.
4. The project sought to use communication to address ‘invisibility’ of Aymara women in Bolivia‘s development plan by showing their contribution to the sustainability of society.
Before providing training in communication and radio CECOPI organised gender awareness training for the women using a variety of approaches, including drama. The women were introduced to the concept of gender as well as to existing international conventions dealing with discrimination against women.
Bolivian norms and laws relating to discrimination and violence against women were also looked into. The information provided a framework for the women to work on gendered communication, in particular radio.
Three communication training courses in Santiago de Callapa, Tiwanacu and District 8 of the City of El Alto. In the first two locations the courses were given in both Aymara and Spanish as these are essentially rural communities while Distrito 8 of El Alto is an urban one, albeit with a high percentage of Aymara population.
Communication Rights: communication, information, communicators for development, where are the women.
Production: best practices; production skills.
Some of the key lessons learned include: it is of crucial importance for projects with sectors of the population such as the one in question to ensure that the cultural and ethnic context of the project is taken into account right from the planning stage. Using drama techniques and dramatising of real situations portrayed as ‘make-believe’ is a valuable tool to help describe complex and unequal power relations between men and women living in a highly patriarchal society. The use of a drama format provided a secure environment where both women and men could reflect on the causes and consequences of gender inequality. Use of indigenous language with women more used to listen than to speak was a contributing factor in helping them to overcome their fear to speak up. In turn this had an effect on their relationships with other participants and led very rapidly to a visible increase in self-esteem.
The project leader, an Aymara communicator herself, highlights that the project faced several difficulties, not least the challenge posed by the geography of the area and the distance the women had to travel. In some cases the women came from communities so remote that they had to walk several hours to be able to participate. Geography, coupled with the lack of roads in some of the areas where the women lived was a big hindrance to the women‘s ability to send dispatches and receive messages since no wireless signal was available.
Less obvious, perhaps, was the difficulty presented by the processes of negotiations which needed to take place between the project holder and the traditional authorities before the project could be advertised and go ahead. This was a lengthy process that had to be carefully managed as advertising and launching the project without the indigenous authorities‘ agreement would almost certainly have meant that the male figure in each group would not have authorised the individual woman to participate. Backing from traditional authorities facilitated the women’s participation in the training. The project leaders identified the fear to speak their minds and to do so publicly, as one of the major difficulties in the project. The women themselves saw the lessening of that fear as the most significant result of the project for them.
The challenges outlined in b) such as distance and geography will continue to affect the initiative. Another constraint is the continued poverty of the women who need to dedicate crucial time to survival activities and therefore this affects the time they can spend gathering information and preparing news. Scarcity of available signals in remote areas is another constraint which will not be overcome in the near future.