Chelsey Branch spent four months in Bolivia with funding from the AUCC “Students for Development” program. She worked with one of AIPE’s member organizations, Centro Juana Azurduy. In her own words:
My “Students for Development” internship was a tremendous experience. I spent three months in the city of Sucre in southwest Bolivia, working with the Centro Juana Azurduy, an organization that addresses the gender dimensions of development by promoting women’s rights through advocacy and education programs.
I was with the Women’s Leadership program – helping with leadership training workshops and conducting a study on the obstacles to women’s public and political participation. What I saw and experienced in the rural areas is the stuff of a century ago!
One weekend we drove 7 hours on bumpy dirt roads to Mojocoya. The women I got to know there really opened my eyes. They walked up to ten hours to attend the leadership workshop! They spoke Quechua as their primary language and many struggled to speak Spanish. All of the women dressed traditionally – in layered skirts and fedora hats – with their long black braids framing their sun-toasted faces. I managed to overcome language and outsider barriers by sharing my knitting and macramé skills.I came away with tremendous admiration for their strength, determination and perseverance. These are women who live in extreme conditions in communities with no running water or electricity. Every day they work long and hard to take care of their 6 or more children and their animals. And yet they still make the effort to attend leadership workshops! They know that their role as social and economic actors is indispensable to the betterment of their families and communities. They are an inspiration to women everywhere.