Youth Act Bolivia – Cochabamba - Laura Pereda
The reflection of what is now Youth Act Cochabamba was the birth of a group of plural and diverse young people, each with different backgrounds and life convictions, but with a common goal: to generate a positive impact and therefore, changes in reality, but also to be part of the hope that humanity has in young people. As a team, we had to face the COVID-19 pandemic and look for ways to communicate while in confinement and under the restrictive measures imposed by the government, but this was not an impediment.
As they say in Cochabamba: “When you want to, you can always do it”, and during this period the official Youth Act – Cochabamba page was created on Facebook and Instagram, which would later become the tools to reach people. Dissemination work was carried out, as well as round table discussions to find the social problems to work on.
Among the most important issues were the “infointoxication” due to the political-social situation and COVID-19, the fall of a government that had been in power for 14 years, which led to social upheaval, confrontations in the streets due to a polarized country; the burning of electoral courts, the rioting of the police, which was a transcendental event to the point that the armed forces had to come out to bring order to the city and set up a transitional government until new democratic elections were held.
The political issues at this juncture were delicate due to the political persecution suffered by several social leaders, andthe Youth Act Cochabamba group came to the conclusion that the best way to help the people was to workagainst the disinformation regarding COVID-19 which hit the population hard, and the proper use ofbiosecurity measures, with an emphasis on the outskirts of the city, rural and indigenous areas. Radio spotswere produced in collaboration with Radio Cepja, as radio is the main medium of information in rural areas.Infographics were also produced with different information for the protection of all people against Covid-19. This information, among others, was disseminated through all possible media and platforms: socialnetworks and Radio Cepja
I am left with the following thought:
“Where two or more people are moved by the concern to do good, wonderful things happen…” Kevin
A second stage. After carrying out different activities during the pandemic, Youth Act Cochabamba searched for new projects, goals and objectives. The first activity to achieve the goals set was to develop training that would allow us to acquire new tools so that the group could face different circumstances.
The trainings were given by outstanding people in the area. The first training was given by Mgr. Rodrigo Eguino who helped to outline the work of the media, the flow of information and the impact of the message. Sheyla Salinas gave a talk on decision-making. This last point was crucial in order to be able to choose a project.
Youth Act Cochabamba explored different values, among them democracy. This value helped to define the project. Before choosing the main project, different working options were considered. The group was divided into teams to work on different topics, where three project proposals were formulated to respond to different needs which we were able to defend. In this way they were able to practise what they had learnt in the trainings on “decision making” and “project development”. “Adelante Mujer” After the presentation of different projects, the team voted for one which consisted of working with women in a rural community two hours away from the city of Cochabamba. The decision which the team took was unanimous due to the deep identification and empathy for the reality that these courageous women live (their voices are not heard in the midst of a socio-cultural context of male chauvinism and imposition) in the rural area of Cochabamba-Bolivia, where women are still, in many sectors, subjected to the subordination of men. This is a reality that peripheral areas still experience; despite this context, to be empowered is an inalienable characteristic of Bolivian women, and thisempowerment, in addition to the life stories, motivated us to work with the women of the community of Pajchapata. The main objective of the project was to create a space for women to share their life stories (emphasising their experience as a woman, mother, sister, wife and member of the community). In this way, to give voice to all that their reality means, inspiring the whole community and society. In this sense, the following secondary objectives were pursued:
– Identify the life stories of three women (the leader of the women’s weaving group, the Wawa-wasi teacher and a young mother from the community), thus contributing to the process of leadership, motivation and empowerment of the women weavers.
– Work with the group of weavers from Pajchapata – Cochabamba so that they can see and feel that they are important women who deserve to be listened to and valued.
– Establish a participatory space where women can feel comfortable making decisions and sharing their life stories.
In this process we also learned to join forces, that is, we made a proposal to work together with the Asociación Amistad y Ciencia, since they had already been working with the women of Pajchapata for morethan seven years, and when they heard the proposal, they accepted and we began the path that wouldtransform our vision as a team.
“Serving humanity is the best work of a lifetime. Sometimes it can be complicated and almost impossible, however, there are organizations that work to try to change different problematic situations that exist inour country. The most fruitful experience of the work was using the qualitative method. Listening to the women weavers and understanding their thoughts helped us to understand their needs. Finally, I will not forget the phrases: “I was afraid to speak, but now I am not afraid”, “If your husband does not help you, do it yourself”
Stage three: Building together.This stage is of vital importance, because it is the starting point to reach that objective, already established, shielded with shades of hope, dedication, learning, effort, rejoicing… Pajchapata, cradle of hard-working people, is a community located approximately two hours from the city of Cochabamba. It established itself as the place that witnessed the most substantial moments that
completely transformed our lives. This good fortune accompanied us from the first meeting we had with the women of Pajchapata, who welcomed us with open arms, a smile and their particular kindness into their spaces. we learned what they did in each meeting (such as weaving), which meant for us the beginning of a strengthened bond of empathy, understanding and sincerity. In this way, each meeting was imbued with the understanding that
each woman had something to teach, something to show and that each one had a particular story that deserved to be made visible. This made us feel that the need for minority voices to be heard was strengthened even more.
Therefore, Abelina, Rina and Roxana voluntarily opened up to tell their life stories, stories that, in a community where machismo still prevails, are truly inspiring, admirable and leave a society that is so fluid nowadays with a lot to learn. Abelina teaches us how important it is to lose the fear of speaking out, telling us that before, she did not dare to say a word for fear of what they would say to her, however, she went through a process that allowed her to raise her voice, to make them listen to her and now she is the first woman councilor in her community; Rina is a teacher of children between 1-5 years old,
which is not very common in Pajchapata. She says that it all starts with the self-esteem that every woman should have, and even though her husband is against her working, she does not give up and continues to fight for her dreams; Roxana, being the youngest, is the mother of two beautiful children
and is dedicated to raising animals: cows, sheep, ducks, etc. Without a doubt, she radiates strength, effort and dedication.
These three women are part of a documentary that was made with a lot of dedication, effort and above all, that tried to be the channel that we had to make visible and give voice to these incredible women, which is called: “Adelante Mujer”, emphasizing the phrase “behind every woman, there is a great story”,
which we presented in a very well known space in the city of Cochabamba, in order to raise awareness and inspire citizens t that we can all contribute to a better place to live, The fact that the women of Pajchapata are the protagonists of the documentary, and that they are admired, recognised and revered by a large part of the population, was a milestone in Cochabamba and Pajchapata.
“I believe that this experience deserves to be lived by every reader, as it undoubtedly marks a before and after in your life, it makes you look beyond yourself and your privileges, and makes you understand the importance of continuing to build a world clothed in empathy. I feel so fortunate to have met women who have become icons for me today and with whom I treasure the most transcendental and wonderful
memories. Let us continue to strive for mutuality, understanding our differences but not forgetting that we are human, and that creates a bond that is unbreakable”.
Stage four: The scenario. In the team’s round tables, scripts and assumptions were forged, scenarios androutes were imagined. On paper everything seemed very simple and with great enthusiasm the plans for the journey were set in motion, however, as the journey progressed, the inky ideas disappeared and the lines of the reality that was to be portrayed were forged on their own.
At this point, most of the approaches had already been made with the protagonists of this story, however, barriers such as language prevented the passage of fluid dialogue, although they had the support of interpreters, the restlessness of those who would be the voices of their people was notorious, and wanting to say so much to those who wanted to understand little, there was a somewhat bitter taste, however, the accession of new Quechua-speaking members (the native language is Quechua) helped to amalgamate cameras with voices. The team’s interest was already great when they first met the ladies of Pajchapata, but as time went on, curiosity was transmuted into affection and sincere affection. When the team approached the local children and portrayed what their mothers had so lovingly cared for, feelings deepened and new friends were made, but the children’s faces had to be taken care of, and with much regret some scenes were changed to avoid the censorship involved in working with the children, at which point an important group lesson was learned: when you are young you tend to ignore the importance of the laws that govern the world of adults. Once the rules of the game were understood, the work began to flow smoothly; working with the collected material was like working on the best marble waiting for hyper-
realistic art. With contributions and approaches as varied as the mouths that gave their opinions, the portrait of a sculptural effort was finally sculpted, a documentary, a handmade film with a taste of the carob tree that grows on the site.
There is no point in making art if it is not shared with others. The restlessness and temper of one of the members in particular, after struggling and getting to know almost the whole city step by step, managed to captivate with her words one of the most influential women in the country, Carla Ortiz, actress, activist and passionate about art, owner of one of the most impressive entertainment spaces, who managed to understand the spoken portrait from the mouth of someone who, with accuracy, showed her soul, the most sincere of one of the hardest realities.
On the day of the event, the faces of those who just a few hours before had never before set foot in this space destined for a certain privileged percentage of Cochabamba society were filled with joy, but, although with their nerves on edge, the protagonists of this chapter remained firm and dignified, owners as always of that characteristic haughtiness that they had carved out with their own hands, this experience was not new only for the exemplary women who owned this celebration in their name. A part of the very well-to-do surrounding population was also learning a lot from them, from their example, and in some cases even from their empowerment. It was the first time that the polleras (typical dress of rural women) were worn by their owners in this establishment.
The days following this titanic monument in honor of the bravery of Avelina, Rina and Roxana, felt too quiet, anxiety ate us up inside, longing for the moment to return to this magical place that had welcomed us with so much affection for almost eight months.
After a few weeks we had the joy of sharing the experience of the event day and the video documentary with the community that so warmly and naturally welcomed us. Our hearts and theirs knew that this project made us aware of how incredibly lucky we are to have each other to build something new for
“Anchata munakuyki Pajchapata”means I love you very much Pajchapata in Quechua.
“The projects that are built together, that are sustained in the heart and potential of each member, looking towards the same horizon, are the ones which mark is transforming us and generate an impact on our realities”.