Seven women out of ten suffer from a form of violence in their homes, according to official statistics released in Bolivia. A report published by UN Women states that Bolivia is one of the countries where women are the most deprived in terms of education and access to healthcare services. This is why these diverse aspects are particularly pertinent for reducing the inequalities between men and women.
Health, education, and the right to live without violence
To improve access of the most disadvantaged members of the population to healthcare services and education, and to strengthen the right of women to live a life free from violence and to participate in political life: these are the pivotal goals of the SDC’s “Improvement of municipal services” programme in Bolivia. The programme’s different projects, concentrated in the Andean region, target 120 rural municipalities and 15 cities, representing altogether some 1,300,000 women and 1,720,000 young people.
One of the main objectives is the creation or the reinforcement of 120 counselling and victim-assistance centres, the same number of networks for the victims of domestic violence, and the implementation of 200 initiatives for the promotion of gender equality on the level of the law.
Significant progress on the legal level
In the Bolivian state constitution ratified in 2009, women’s rights are explicitly recognised in more than 30 articles. Following this, several laws targeting sexual equality were enacted.
In particular, the law 1674 on domestic violence transformed a problem previously considered as a private matter into an issue of public interest. The law sets out national policy with regard to domestic violence: from the sanctions against the perpetrators to the protection of the victims. It also includes a number of measures for the prevention of domestic violence.
In addition, a law on sexual harassment and violence towards women working in public service jobs was ratified in 2012 following 11 years of negotiations in the parliament. The SDC, working via its partner organisations, actively participated in the conception and the diffusion of this law.
The number of women in high-level municipal posts has grown significantly, from 19% in 2004 to 43% in 2010. And yet, candidates and elected women from various political parties and civil society organizations are subject to verbal and physical aggression with impunity. Such political violence discourages women from becoming involved in politics and represents a significant democratic deficit.
Despite this significant progress, the laws have not yet led to concrete actions, partly because certain discriminatory cultural practices remain deeply rooted. One of the main problems is that men do not feel concerned by this issue, making it all the more important to include them in the process of reflection on the relations between men and women.
Men rallying for change
Fundamental to the fight against violence is the transformation of socially constructed roles, particularly in power relations. It is essential for men to be involved in the discussions and debates about the role of men and women in the family, the economy, society, culture, and politics.
To this end, the SDC programme includes activities to allow men and women to reflect on the construction of “masculinity”. Based on the common reflections that emerge, practical approaches are developed, leading to a more just and equitable society. For men to become agents of the transformation of relations between the sexes, they must become allies everywhere, be it in urban, suburban, or rural settings.
For a culture of non-violence
The SDC seeks to contribute to the transformation of mindsets that lead to discriminatory cultural practices. With its communication campaign “For a culture of non-violence”, some 200 Bolivian print, radio, television, and internet journalists informed and mobilised the population. One of the objectives was to encourage local governments to create or strengthen mechanisms to fight against violence, ranging from preventive measures to the administration of justice.