“We were trapped in our homes, in the dark”
Four thousand metres above sea level in Bolivia lies the city of El Alto. It’s barren. No trees as far as the eye can see. And new brick houses are being built everywhere for people who have migrated here from other, poorer areas all over the country. Inside the radio booth at Diakonia’s partner organization CECOPI, activities are in full swing. Four women are recording today’s programme called “Destroy the silence” - about men’s violence against women.
“When I came here for the first time, I didn’t think I’d be allowed to take part. I’m an indigenous woman. But they told me I was welcome, and since then I’ve learnt a great deal,” says Helena Miranda Rojas, who works on the programme “Destroy the silence”.
She says that her self-esteem has improved greatly since she started taking part in the courses in communication and radio.
They were treated as animals
“I was shy when I came here. And scared of doing things wrong. We’ve all been humiliated and discriminated against. We didn’t know we had rights,” says Helena.
“Before, many of us were not treated as human beings, but as animals – with no rights. Trapped in our homes, in the dark,” she continues.
Juliana Pacasi, who is also a reporter, started working in radio on a programme called “I’ve always listened to you – now it’s your turn to listen to me”. It deals with women’s rights. The fact that women also have a voice and must be listened to.
“My family is very patriarchal. I was intelligent as a child but they didn’t let me study anyhow. CECOPI became my school instead. The courses have opened my eyes and taught me that I have rights,” she says.
Learned to pick themselves up again
Juliana continues by pointing out that Bolivia is full of inequalities between men and women and that violence is present in many parts of society.
“A few days ago on the bus, a man shouted at his wife that she should obey him. I said something to him. When a man treats a woman like that, she loses her self-esteem, but we here at CECOPI have learned to pick ourselves up again,” says Juliana.
“I’ve changed a great deal,” she continues. “My husband now jokes with me, saying, ‘You talk so much about women’s rights that even our dogs are feminists nowadays’,” says Juliana, laughing.
Reina Chinchero, who has also taken part in the course in working in radio, says that she is trying to bring more of her friends along to take part in the courses, but it’s difficult.
“Many women have no time for themselves. After taking care of their children and cooking for their husbands, there’s no time left. Many of my friends ask me where I find the time, but I’ve decided to do this so I have to prioritise it.”
Being a reporter has affected her life
Radio Atipiri has existed in El Alto since 2006, and several hundred people have trained as reporters. Most programmes are broadcast in the Aymara language of the indigenous population.
All of CECOPI’s courses in sewing, cooking and computer literacy contain a key component that is about women’s rights, the aim being to strengthen women and give them a voice.
“I never thought I’d be learning to do this. To produce radio reports. But being a reporter has affected my entire life. It has helped me in my daily life. What I teach my sons, how I talk to my husband,” says Marta Dubiri Cali.