Women of the Andes Approximately
55% of the Bolivian population belongs to either Quechua or Aymara speaking indigenous groups descended from the Inca, and another 30% are of mixed white and Amerindian descent. Many Bolivians are subsistence farmers living in difficult-to-access areas in the Andes, where they herd alpaca and llamas, while others live in the barrios of Bolivian cities. Traditionally, indigenous women were the heads-of-household and controlled nearly all of the family's economic activities. Increasingly, however, contact with more "modern" male-dominated society has created tension within indigenous communities. Now, the women of the Andes not only face high levels of discrimination in education and the workplace, but also heightened violence in the domestic sphere. Lack of Spanish education has led to their exclusion from decision-making processes within the country. Alma de los Andes provides these women with a safe space and training in socially and economically empowering activities.
Background on Bolivia
Landlocked and isolated by its location in the Andes Mountains, Bolivia has one of the lowest standards of living in South America. It has suffered through over 190 failed governments since its independence from Spain in 1825. Economic inequality has increased racial tensions between those of European descent and the impoverished mestizos and indigenous peoples who make up over 80% of the population.
Timeline of Major Events
|1824|| Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan revolutionary, liberates Bolivia from Spain.|
|1952|| Peasants and miners overthrow the military regime and introduce social and economic reforms.|
|1964|| Vice-President Rene Barrientos leads a miltary coup.|
|1967|| A peasant uprising led by Ernesto Guevara is suppressed by the Bolivian government with the help of the United States.|
|1982|| The militar junta hands over power to a civilian government.|
|1986|| The tin market collapses and 21,000 miners lose their jobs.|
|1989|| Jaime Paz Zamora is elected president and commits to sharing power with the former dictator Hugo Banzer.|
|1990|| The government allocates 4 million acres of rainforest for indigenous peoples.|
|2001|| Half of Bolivia is declared a natural disaster area due to persistent heavy rains.|
|2005|| Socialist Evo Morales wins the presidential elections. He is the first indeigenous Bolivian to serve as president.|
|2007|| Months of heavy rain leave dozens of people dead and many thousands homeless. A state of emergency is declared.|
|2008|| Bolivia expels the US ambassador on charges of fomenting civil unrest. Bolivia expels US drug agency operations.|
|2009|| A new constitution redistributing wealth and giving more power to the indigenous majority is approved in a national referendum.|
|2011|| Violent demonstrations break out in response to food shortages.|
|2012|| The UN Convention on Narcotics classifies coca as an illegal drug. Bolivia temporarily leaves the organization in protest.|
51.3% of the population lives below the poverty line.
64% of women participate in the labor force.
Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in South America. It is the world’s third largest producer of coca, a plant consumed legally in many indigenous ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. However, since coca is used to produce cocaine, Bolivia faces international pressure to destroy its coca farms. Such an action would seriously deplete the livelihoods of many indigenous groups. Finally, lack of foreign investment in the mining industry and high food prices serve as major obstacles to greater economic prosperity.
Indigenous populations make up the majority of the Bolivian population however they face widespread discrimination. Most of the indigenous population lives in isolated rural areas working low paying jobs such as subsistence farmers, traders, artisans or miners with limited access to basic services such as health care or education. Many speak languages other than Spanish, making it difficult to attend school or obtain higher paying skilled jobs.
Public Health Concerns
It is estimated that 23% of the entire Bolivian population suffers from malnutrition. Proper nourishment is a constant struggle for much of the population. Rural populations lack access to proper sanitation and medical services, making them exceedingly vulnerable to diseases such as malaria.