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Enough is enough for women leaders in Bolivia

November 2013

Half of female leaders in public office in Bolivia experience violence, discrimination and harassment that prevents them from doing their work.

This happens in spite of national and international rules and regulations forbidding such behaviour. 

Bolivian girls in traditional dress

The outcomes of this conference are important to ensure that future generations of women leaders do not face the same problems of discrimination and abuse

For example, in 2012 Bolivia passed Law 243, which makes violence and political harassment against women illegal. However, implementation of this law has been weak.

In light of this, Christian Aid provided funding for our partners, UNITAS and Fundacion Machaqa, to hold a national workshop aimed at analysing Law 243 and discussing the situation women face.

Representatives from over 30 social organisations all over the country took part, including indigenous and peasant women's organisations, women in public office and women’s rights organisations.

Forced to give up

At the workshop, one participant - an elected authority - described her situation: 'I have been forced to give up...

'I go to a meeting, they kick me out of the meeting... “You are to blame,” they tell me. “We're going to remove your land, we're going to burn it.”

'My family have been discriminated against. They wanted to take my cattle... "You are going to resign in the press and on television, you are going to believe it.” This is what I met with.'

Concerns and proposals

The participants questioned article five of the law, which protects women who are 'candidates, elected, designated or in the practice of a public political function', but it does not refer to women who hold positions within social organisations.

They also expressed their concerns about judicial procedures, which do not support cases of harassment and political violence.

For example, there are barriers that make it hard to access justice, a lack of protection for those who do make a complaint and delays in the administration of cases.

The most important proposals that came out of the workshop included:

• making sure women leaders of social organisations are included within the framework of protection by Law 243

• the creation of an attorney general and courts that specialise in harassment and political violence

• introducing free legal procedures that rest on spoken, rather than written, testimony - to speed up the process of implementing the law.

Going forward

A committee of eight representatives from different regions will be responsible for taking these proposals forward nationally.

'For me, this event is very important. Maybe we do not notice, we do not see it [violence against women] in organisations, it seems normal.' Male participant from a peasants' organisation.

'I think that we will start to activate some international rights instruments to exercise and defend the political rights of the association's women councillors.' Male participant representing an organisation of authorities in public service.

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