WBEZ | Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en ‘Ground Shifters’: ‘Girls Gauntlets’ – children unionizing in Bolivia http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-16/%E2%80%98ground-shifters%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98girls-gauntlets%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-children-unionizing-bolivia-92051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-15/girls.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>This week, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky presents a five-part series featuring stories of women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It’s called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds</a>.</em></p><p><em>We've all heard tales about child labor – the suffering, gross injustice and heartache. Today, we conclude our series with an unusual child labor story. </em></p><p><em>In “Girls Gauntlets,” we meet Ana, Brigida and Noemí, a group of young girls in La Paz, Bolivia who work — and are proud of it. </em></p><p><em>In fact, they’re so proud that they have unionized, along with more than a hundred thousand child workers across Latin America, to demand respect and legal protection, reports</em> <em>Jean Friedman-Rudovsky.</em></p><p>****************</p><p>When I first came to Bolivia, it didn’t take long to notice an active 5 foot-and-under world. Kids — everywhere — working. In the countryside, they dot expansive fields, chopping sugar cane for the harvest. In the cities, they offer to shine my shoes and hang out the open doors of buses, encouraging passengers aboard.</p><p>I had a knee jerk reaction: child labor—ugh—it hurts to bear witness.</p><p>But what I didn’t realize is that what I saw, and what I’ve always learned, was not the whole story.</p><p>On a recent Saturday morning, 16 year-old Ana Guadalupe Perez Rosas was washing dishes. She's a domestic worker, with a system: first the glasses, then plates, then cutlery and finally pots. That way, she explains, pot grease doesn’t dirty the rest.</p><p>Bolivia has 9 million inhabitants; one million are child workers, some who started working as early as seven.&nbsp; Of these, almost half are girls. The girls, like their jobs, are often hidden, inside homes or in the backs of restaurants.</p><p>Ana started working as a domestic worker when she was 14, but her first job, as a kitchen assistant, was when she was 12.&nbsp; One day, her mother, who is a also domestic worker, had an accident and Ana offered to stand in for her. She's been doing the job ever since..</p><p>Ana works two mornings a week with the same family, and then takes other jobs on the side when she can. She says her pay helps her buy food for her family and sometimes her salary goes to the electricity or water bills.</p><p>It also buys her own school supplies. Ana can spend 30 hours a week working, but like the vast majority of child workers in Bolivia, she also attends school.</p><p>With her gentle demeanor and dish-pan hands, 16 year old Ana is an outlaw. It doesn’t matter that she’s never harmed anyone, or that she is an “A” student. As a child laborer, she is told by Bolivian law and our society that something is wrong with her. Childhood ought to be for play and learning, we say, not for cleaning other peoples’ homes.</p><p>But this girl, and more than 100,000 youngsters throughout Latin America, are fed up with feeling like they are a plague that ought to be eradicated. They’ve gotten together to challenge one of the modern era’s most fundamental foundations: that child labor is wrong.</p><p>"I belong to the organization, La Paz TAYPINATS which means Child and Adolescent Worker’s Gathering Place," Ana says. "We are an organization of boy and girl child and adolescent workers—shoe shiners, street sellers, domestic workers, construction workers, many different sectors. Above all, we ask the government for protection as workers and that we be treated respectfully by society. Because, the majority of the time we are oppressed. They think that it’s not right for us to work, that at our childhood we should be for playing and learning. But they don’t want to recognize the reality in Bolivia. The majority of us kids work because our family needs something from us, like helping to put food on the table or to support younger siblings."</p><p><strong>Girl Power</strong></p><p>Ana is very modest. She’s more than a member — she’s the President of the La Paz chapter of the national child worker union, UNATSBO. Across the country, about 15,000 unionized boy and girl child and adolescent workers speak with one voice. They range in age from 8 to 18.</p><p>As I travel the country and learn about this growing movement, my head spins. My preconceived notions of child labor go out the window. These kids combine work and school. Education is a union requirement. They aren’t slaving away in factories either. Most work on their own schedules. And they hate the pity we throw at them. Rather, they are proud as workers, and they organize for their rights. Strong child worker unions now stretch from Paraguay to Peru, from Venezuela to Ecuador.</p><p>Their primary goal is political. Like undocumented immigrants in the United States, child workers exist in a void. The kids want protections, but it’s a battle. Governments in the developing world promised the International Labour Organization, the United Nations and other world bodies&nbsp; outlaw child labor. They say that they can’t offer these young people workers rights, because legislating the sector would mean condoning the practice.</p><p>Thus, kids remain society’s most vulnerable workforce. They’re paid less than adults for performing the same work. Those who work on the street—shining shoes or selling in markets—are frequently robbed or beaten up for their meager earnings. Kids are not entitled to breaks or overtime and have no recourse from employer abuse because, hey—they shouldn’t be working in the first place.</p><p>And on top of all of that — within this already discriminated workforce, girls suffer yet again, Ana reminds me as she finishes off the dishes.</p><p>"In any job, there is always more danger for girls than for boys," she says. "I think that in part it’s because it’s hard for us girls to speak up. We don’t say what goes on. In offices, bosses harass or assault a woman worker, or this happens in houses with domestic workers too. Women are always going to be more at risk."</p><p>Abandoned by the government — abused by their bosses, these girls have learned to fend—and organize—for themselves.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Adult lives, childhood dreams</strong></p><p>Perched on a ladder in the central cemetery of the 14,000 ft. high city of Potosí, Bolivia, 17 year old Brígida Espinoza cleans the small face of a mausoleum.</p><p>Brígida, along with 9 other kids, are the cemetery’s caretakers. They dig and look after graves, and clean mausoleums for hire. Brígida has worked here for a year. Her first job doing neighbor’s laundry was when she was 11.&nbsp;</p><p>"I shine the name and get rid of the dust," says Brígida as she scrubs hard. "If the family asks for it, I clean the glass too."</p><p>Brigida normally earns between $1.50 and $2 per cleaning. At the cemetery’s entrance, I noticed that the prices are painted on a wall. Brigida tells me that’s the union’s doing.</p><p>"People would ask for a cleaning and then not want to pay because we are kids," Brígida said. "So we said, there should be a sign at the entrance that lists our prices. We use this to defend ourselves, so that people pay us what we are owed."</p><p>Brígida is a kind of single mom. She has no kids but is the only breadwinner for her two younger siblings, who are 14 and 11.</p><p>"The day we buried my mom, I was ten," Brígida says. "I work to be able to provide for my brother and sister. It’s been this way since my dad remarried and no longer gave us money."</p><p>The three of them live on their own, in a one room apartment. Her older brother Jonny used to support the family, but he passed away earlier this year. Now, the weight falls on Brígida. Yet despite this burden, she finds the time to be a union leader.</p><p>"There’s a council of elected representatives for each sector," she says. "I and two others, represent the cemetery, and we attend Saturday and Tuesday city-wide meetings."</p><p>Brigida invites me to her next meeting. In a ramshackle office in a drafty building in Potosi, the pre-teens and teens laugh and tease each other. I’m reminded they are still kids. But, Brigida says, this is not child’s play.</p><p>"We have regulations that we comply with, whether we want to or not," she says. "For example, when we have a meeting, you have to pay a fine of 15 cents for every minute you are late after the first five minutes. If you miss a meeting then half of what you earn on your next work day goes to the union. Same thing, if you miss a workshop, then we decide as a group what the penalty will be."</p><p>Girls like Brígida lead this national movement. There are hundreds of local female leaders like them. And seven out of the 9 nine current regional chapters Presidents of the national child worker union are young women.</p><p>Noemi Guiterrez is one of them. Poised, focused, and a little shy, Noemí is the coordinator for CONNATSOP, the Potosi Council of Organized Child Workers. She started working in a call center when she was 12 years old.</p><p>Now, at 17, Noemi manages an internet café.&nbsp;</p><p>During a union meeting she led on a recent night, the group discussed the status of negotiations with the government regarding new laws on children in the workplace. After the meeting, Noemi and I chat, and she explains what should have been painfully obvious to me.</p><p>"Everyone says that kids shouldn’t work, but they are not taking into account the economic reality in this country," Noemi said. "Sure, if we were all well off, none of us would have to work. But rather than thinking rationally, the government only says we need to eradicate child labor. I say, they ought to eradicate poverty first."</p><p>Of course. Again, billions of dollars spent to address symptoms of global inequality, rather than focusing on a cure to the root problem. Worse, we criminalize the young whose response to their difficult lives is trying to help their families. Amazingly, these children have taken our lemon—and made their own lemonade.</p><p>"For me working at this age isn’t a sacrifice or an obligation," says Ana. "It’s more like a good way to pass time when I forget my other problems. Other child workers feel the same way, they look forward to going out into the streets to sell, to meet new people. These kids develop their language skills and they become like little economists because they learn how to manage their money."</p><p>It is so complex. No, Ana is not a character in a Dickens novel. And the union believes there is a need for some anti-child labor laws. Any work that is inherently unsafe for children, like being inside a mine, must be illegal for the young.</p><p>But where do we draw the line? Ana, Brigida and Noemi don’t want our sympathy. My heart drops thinking about Brigida digging graves on the weekend to support her younger siblings.</p><p>Perhaps that’s where the union makes a difference. Their demand for respect is not about glossing over their troubled lives. It’s about wanting to be seen as dignified members of society and wanting their due legal protections.</p><p>It’s a radical proposal, but I see that the process of constructing new societal possibilities, helps the kids grow; particularly the girls. Through organizing, being a young activist helped every one of these girls find their voice.</p><p>"I used to be very shy," Brigida recalls. "I didn’t know how to speak in front of others. My compañeros said to me: “You have to talk,” but I would just get more nervous. Now I’ve lost that shyness and so really, this being a representative from the cemetery sector has helped me a lot."</p><p>Ana too credits her strong character to being part of this movement.</p><p>"You could say that a significant part of who I am comes from being in this organization," she says. "I learned how to value what’ around me, how to respect others, trust in my compañeros, and always take into account everyone’s opinion and make sure everyone is heard. I’ve learned how to always keep moving forward even when there are obstacles in my way. I’ve learned to never give up what you are trying to achieve…The other girls in the organization are great leaders. Each one has a leader inside of her. We girls are always the most active. We are more interested in politics and are always at the head of the organization."</p><p>In Latin America, that young women take leadership roles in an organization where boys are also members, is extraordinary. These girls fought for those spaces. And through their leadership, the organization has reached new heights.</p><p>In 2008, these kids changed the country’s constitution. Following the election of Bolivian President Evo Morales, the country wrote a new “Magna Carta” and the original draft prohibited children from working. The kids marched, lobbied assembly members and convinced the adults to outlaw child exploitation, rather than all child labor. Now, the Union is facing a backlash, as the government tries to write new labor laws that curtail this constitutional advance. So the kids are gearing up for another battle.</p><p>Meanwhile, just doing their jobs, they say, helps them reach their dreams—literally. Because without their small salaries to pay for their own school supplies, few of these kids would still be getting an education.</p><p>In Ana's case, she wants to be a business administrator, or an economist. Brígida says she’d like to be a nurse. Noemí wants to be an architect - or a doctor.</p><p>I’m not sure they realize that they’ve already accomplished more than most of us do in a lifetime. Through their struggle, they challenge one of the western world’s most basic principles—that child labor is wrong. They demand we rethink our conceptions of what makes a just society. They are slowly but surely, shifting the ground beneath our feet.<br> &nbsp;</p><p><em>This series is part of an ongoing collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media</a> at Columbia College-Chicago, called Gender, Human Rights, Leadership and Media. The Institute develops projects with journalists, artists, human rights workers and activists to investigate global issues.</em></p><p><em>You can hear all of the stories from this week, as well as the interview we did with Jean Friedman-Rudovsky to kick off the series, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 16 Sep 2011 13:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-16/%E2%80%98ground-shifters%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98girls-gauntlets%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-children-unionizing-bolivia-92051 ‘Ground Shifters’: Collective healing brings hope to Ciudad Juárez http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-15/%E2%80%98ground-shifters%E2%80%99-collective-healing-brings-hope-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-92037 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-15/Erika and Ernesto.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>This week, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky presents a five-part series featuring stories of women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It's called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds.</a></em></p><p><em>Today, we revisit Ciudad Juárez, now ground zero of a drug war that’s killed more than 6,000 people in the last three years. The carnage has left an entire population of families steeped in grief. We get an intimate look at one young woman who recently lost the love of her life. She tells Friedman-Rudovsky how her emotional wounds have helped others to heal.</em></p><p>JEAN: Meet Erika Salazar and Ernesto, her three year old son.</p><p>JEAN [with ERIKA and SON mixed in]: Since last June, this is their daily ritual: Mother asks son: where’s daddy? Ernesto points to the sky. And you love him a lot? Yes, he says. And where is he watching you from, making sure you are alright? Up there, answers the little boy with the slight lisp, eyes floating up towards the heavens.</p><p>ERIKA: I found out watching the TV news; I thought I saw his body. So I went to where the news said the killing happened and no one was there. I looked for him all over the city and then just as I was heading home I saw the car he had been driving. It was full of blood and the windows were shattered. In that moment, I knew it was him I had seen. So I went to the morgue and he was there. The district attorney hasn’t investigated it at all, just like with many other cases.&nbsp;</p><p>JEAN: Erika and Ernesto lives in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico homicide capital of the world, where thousands have died from the years-long “War on Drugs” that many see spiraling out of control. An increasing number of politicians, experts and activists now wonder if the billions of dollars spent were worth the human cost. Recently we’ve learned about “Operation Fast and Furious,” a scheme through which the US government intentionally allowed thousands of guns to flow into Mexico in order to track their sale to violent drug cartels.<br> Erika’s husband was shot, assaulted and killed for his cash, she says. 29 years-old Loving father of three.</p><p>ERIKA: Era los 24 horas estando en la casa. Llorando, sin dormir…</p><p>JEAN: At first, I was just in the house 24 hours a day, crying, not eating, not sleeping. Not even showering, and not paying any attention to my kids, she remembers. But then she recalls saying to her self: Erika, enough. You have three kids and don’t have the luxury of falling down.</p><p>JEAN: So instead of falling, Erica landed here.</p><p>JEAN: Welcome to SABIC, Salud y Bienestar Comunitario, or Communal Health and Wellbeing, where dance therapy class has just let out.</p><p>DORA: Aquí se llama Salud y Bienestar Comunitario, es una asociación civil, estamos en la zona poniente de ciudad Juárez…</p><p>JEAN: That’s the center’s Director, Dora Davila. Dora explains that residents of this periphery neighborhood created the center eight years ago.</p><p>DORA: This center is completely community run. It’s based on holistic healing. Here we work with an all-encompassing concept of health. Health as harmony, as equilibrium, as life—emtional, social, environment and body. We have a wide range of services including floral therapy, reiki, massage, group therapy, dance. We have a very clear concept of gender too—meaning the reconstruction of women’s lives, particularly now as this relates to the current situation of generalized violence in this city.&nbsp;</p><p>JEAN: The small building perched on a hill, overlooks the rest of the city.&nbsp; I can understand how Erika must have felt first coming here. The all-glass entrance is filled with plants and sunlight pores in. Children amuse themselves with Legos as their moms drink coffee and prepare for the day.</p><p>ERIKA: Yo empecé a trabajar aquí en SABIC por medio de las terapias…</p><p>JEAN: Erika says her neighbor, who had also lost a loved one to violence, brought her here for the first time to attend the grief support group. She then involved with dance classes, reiki, and as a peer counselor for other women. Now she works here as an administrative assistant.</p><p>ERIKA: My life changed completely. I used to be a housewife and I depended on my husband for everything. Now I am rediscovering myself as a woman, as a worker, as a mother because I am using skills that I didn’t even know I had or that I never put to use. I arrived here destroyed, with my self-esteem on the floor. You could say I arrived here dead inside.</p><p>JEAN: It’s hard to reconcile Erika’s reflection of her past self with the woman sitting in front of me. She now has a quiet grace, the serenity of a survivor who is at peace with what life has thrown at her, and the strength of a warrior who knows the battle is not yet over. This is not uncommon in Juarez, notes Dora Davila.</p><p>DORA: To be a woman in Juárez is like being in a whirpool from which you can’t escape. It tires you. Women of Juarez are tired of the hours they work in the maquila, tired of living in fear of what will happen to their kids. We sometimes feel like our energy runs out and we aren’t sure where we’ll find enough to keep on. But also, being a woman in Juarez means very brave and very strong. Recently, there is a strong sense of solidarity. To be a woman in Juarez is to be all women of Juarez. All of us who are here say to ourselves “being in Juarez gives my life purpose.”</p><p>JEAN: On a recent morning, Erika and two other women gather for their weekly group therapy session. They sit on plastic chairs with bare feet resting on mats and rugs.</p><p>ERIKA: Ya saque saque su ropa, fue dificil, mucho mucho pero parece que ya..</p><p>JEAN: Erika lives with parents now that her husband is gone. In group therapy, she recounts her previous day. She spent the afternoon getting rid of her husband’s clothes and belongings. It was her first time back home since he died. It was hard, she says to the group. Very, very hard. Seeing all his things, she continues, made me feel like I had fallen again. But with she says her friends helped her move her emotions, from anger, to sadness and finally to relief.</p><p>The other women nod understanding Erika’s story in a way I can not. One, who asked me not to use her name, also lost her husband to the city’s escalating violence. She reflects on the struggle that has become that of so many Juarez women and how she like Erika has found a path forward.</p><p>ANONYMOUS WOMAN: There are so many women who are alone now. From the moment we lose our husbands we begin a constant challenge—trying to earn enough money from work and also becoming better mothers. We end up sacrificing part of ourselves. We dedicate all our time to work, to our kids, to the daily struggle of keeping our families going and the days pass into years. We are honest, dedicated working people and we have learned so much by being together with other women. We are better able to take on life’s challenges and to have a more positive attitude. The therapy helps us express our emotions and to move forward psychologically.&nbsp;</p><p>Despite this, it seems that such intense personal reflection is only for the truly strong. The group has dwindled over time, from 16 to four.</p><p>ERIKA: The moment we start to touch on the hard stuff, you find ways to escape. We dont really want to work that hard stuff. People think that pain is normal, that it’s natural, that if you lose a loved one then you have to suffer because if you stop suffering it means you no longer love that person. That’s not the way it should be. Let that person go and rest in peace. Don’t wait for time to heal your pain because that only makes it worse. The sooner you start to heal the better.</p><p>JEAN: For this reason, Dora, Erika and the others spread out around Juárez, offering peer counseling and therapy to women who can’t get to the center. This collective experience is crucial for Erika.</p><p>ERIKA:&nbsp; Sharing the experiences of others who have gone through what you’ve lived helps to minimize your own suffering. You start find silver linings. For example when I sit down and talk with someone who has gone through what I have, sometimes it’s like I am that person on the listening end. The first time I tried peer counseling it was with a young woman like me. She had lost her husband a year ago before and she was totally destroyed, crying. By telling her “listen, chin up, be strong, everything happens for a reason,” it was like I was saying it to myself, almost like I was looking into a mirror and comforting myself too.</p><p>JEAN: Back at home, Erika gives little Ernesto a bath. She says they’ll probably stay with her parents longer than she first thought. She’s just not ready to go back to the home she shared with her husband. That’s how her life is right now, one day at a time.</p><p>ERIKA: I used to be a person that planned everything. I was the one, as they say, who built castles in the sky. But everything that happened made me realize that the only thing you have is this moment. We dont know what’s going to happen tomorrow. What happened to me helped me open my eyes and live everyday in the present.</p><p>JEAN: Erika’s life today feels almost like a life-after. There was something else before – love, joy, partnership – which she mourns but she knows she can not turn back the pages of time. Instead, she moves forward, without regret, present in her skin, in her space, in her city—unlike the quarter-million Juárez residents who’ve fled over the past four years in fear. Erika could have left too. Her three kids are all U.S. citizens. But, she says she and her children are Juarenses and they won’t be leave.</p><p>ERIKA: Juarez is not just violence. There are many good people, many people who receive you with open arms. There are many of us still here with the hope that this is going to change and we don’t let ourselves lose that hope. We are hard working people, we fight to make our lives better. We are united. We have faith our current situation will change. We are from here and this is where were will remain.</p><p>JEAN [with ERIKA and ERNESTO mixed in]: Ernesto stands on the couch. His tiny legs wobble as he tries to steady himself on the cushions. Erika kneels below. “Jump, Jump!,” she tells him. Don’t be afraid. He laughs and hesitates. For this three year old, the inches that separate him from the safety of his mom’s outstretched hands, must seem like a one story drop. “I’m right here,” Erika says. “I’ve got you.” Ernesto looks straight into her eyes and springs off the couch, right into her arms. I notice he’s got her full lips and smooth skin. His eyes are someone else’s.</p><p>ERIKA: Me amas? Hasta donde? Hasta donde esta tu papi? Es mucho verdad que sí?</p><p>JEAN: You love me? Erika asks. Yes, he answers. How much? He mumbles: I love you from here to where my daddy is up there.<br> [end Erika and Ernesto original audio]<br> &nbsp;</p><p><em>This series is part of an ongoing collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media</a> at Columbia College-Chicago called Gender, Human Rights, Leadership, and Media. The Institute develops projects with journalists, artists, human rights workers and activists to investigate global issues.</em></p></p> Thu, 15 Sep 2011 16:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-15/%E2%80%98ground-shifters%E2%80%99-collective-healing-brings-hope-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-92037 Ground Shifters: ‘Locked-up, but Organized’ in La Paz, Bolivia http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-14/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98locked-organized%E2%80%99-la-paz-bolivia-91979 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-14/prison1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><em>This week, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky presents a five-part series featuring stories of women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It’s called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds</a>.</em></p><p><em>Today, we travel to a women’s prison in La Paz, Bolivia. Rather than a high-security industrial complex, this prison takes the form of a miniature city — with shops, businesses, a school and even a union. We find out how its female inmates are exercising their rights to organize and improve their communal home.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Just past the security screening rooms, the women’s Central Correctional Facility in La Paz, Bolivia expands into an open air courtyard. It looks like anything but a prison. Women – not wearing jumpsuits or uniforms of any kind – manage kiosks and stalls, or sit knitting in front of classrooms.</p><p>Young kids, who live inside with their moms, run down passageways and weave around my legs out into the yard. Briseida Paredes is a wide-eyed beauty who looks decades younger than a grandmother of two. S he says the prison is designed like a hacienda or spacious ranch.</p><p>"The only security we have are the four towers and the door," says Briseida, through a translator. "Over there are the shared dormitories. Also, there are a variety of courses offered for inmates for free like accounting, baking, knitting, embroidery. There’s a laundry facility—we offer that service for people outside the jail. There are those of us who wash dishes, wash clothes, clean the classrooms. Everyone makes their own way here."</p><p>That’s lot to take in. No individual cells and women who earn their own keep inside. Almost nothing meshes with my idea of prison. Especially Breseida’s title: President of the Consejo de Delegadas, or delegate council, a representative body most akin to an inmate union.</p><p>"Of course, we have to work jointly with the national penitentiary system as well as the local government," she says. "Also with the prison health system. I’m not the boss here. There is a warden and everything has to be done according to procedure. In this coordinated way, we address judicial matters, as well as medical attention for the kids; any and all internal issues inside the facility."</p><p>13 reps elected by the areas where they sleep, six more at large – to be in charge of education, work and recreation. Then, a Vice President and La Presidente. They run in yearly elections. One inmate, one vote, via secret ballot. Despite what Briseida says, these elected representatives make the prison hum. They hold classes and help inmates stay with their schooling. They arrange for donations from charity organizations for the kids, and make sure the businesses run smoothly.</p><p>They even coordinate soccer matches with visitors. Lucia Choque is a dorm delegate. She’s indigenous Aymara. Two thick long braids hang down her back.</p><p>"My name is Lucia Choque and I’ve been here for one year and one month," she says. "I’m the representative from dorm 11. Each dormitory delegate helps to organize the activities like the Christmas communal meals and decorations. Sometimes the new girls don’t understand how this all works. They think they are still on the outside but things are different here. I explain that in the dorms, they can’t bring in outside bags, can’t bring in food or anything like that. They don’t always listen so I have to be on top of them, reminding them again and again."</p><p>Hours past roll call, the women and kids are free to roam until 8 clock tonight, when they must be back in the dorms. Briseida is working—the prisoners are making sweet bread to raise money for infrastructure improvements and she’s managing the process. It’s clear that these women find nothing unusual about being organized.</p><p>We’re in Bolivia – where unionization is a foundation of society. Everyone—from the shoe shine boys, to the farmers, to the domestic workers, have their representative organization.</p><p>"Everywhere around the world, people organize: in the workers unions, in professional associations, in mother’s clubs. Why not in a jail?," Briesida asks. "We, too, are a part of society. We have needs just like everyone else. Teachers demanding a raise protest and make themselves heard. This is the same thing, but we ask for better food, better medical facilities, better infrastructure. Since we are part of society, we have the same rights as those on the outside. The only right that’s been taken away from us is freedom of movement. Every other one is intact."</p><p>Intact is right — and these women don’t take them for granted.</p><p>"About a month and a half ago we had a strike because we only had 50 gas canisters for cooking and those 50 weren’t enough for the prison’s three kitchens," Briseida recalls. "So what did we do first? We followed procedure and sent a request letter. That was ignored so we called a state of emergency and refused to stand for roll call. The last resort is the hunger strike. At first, we had about 30 women striking. During a strike, you can’t stand for roll call or work. The only thing we drank was coca and chamomile tea and we only ate throat lozenges. That strike lasted 4 days and now we have 75 gas canisters."</p><p>Briseida makes it sound so easy. But it’s hard being a leader in this environment. Constant threats from the guards and gangs or factions form easily. You have to know how to deal with all kinds of personalities, says la Presidenta.</p><p>"Here there are all people from all over," she points out. "There are some from the rural areas. Others are educated professionals so you have to mediate their different life experiences and perspectives. But all humans, whether free or in prison, learn new things until the day we die. We always keep on learning."</p><p><strong>Finding a voice, cultivating a leader</strong></p><p>Some of that learning comes through being a delegada. On the outside, none of the current reps were political women. Virginia Condori is young and soft-spoken, and is dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. Like 80% of Bolivia’s prison population, she’s a “preventiva” – meaning she’s being held preventatively while waiting for trial. Legally there’s a 6 month cap on preventative detention. But that’s not reality. She’s been here for over year and has yet to come before a judge.</p><p>Yet, she’s not bitter. Instead, she’s productive. She’s working on her accounting degree and now she’s the representative for education—a post she says taught her more lessons than the classroom.</p><p>"One of those has been that I’ve lost my fear of speaking in front of others, of expressing myself," she says. "I remember the first time. Someone told me – you have to make an announcement about a human rights workshop and you have to tell everyone during roll call. I stepped out to give the announcement and I turned red. You know you stand in front of everyone and all the compañeras are looking at you. I thought to myself, maybe I’m not saying it right. But with time I lost that fear. This has all helped me to develop, speak more often, express myself better. I wasn’t this kind of person before."</p><p>It’s this personal evolution that may matter almost as much as winning a strike. Nicole Zamora Paredes is Briseida’s middle child. Only 20 years old herself, she brought her toddler son in for a visit. She’s got her mother’s eyes, and the same strong sense of self. She says the delegada system is the best rehabilitation opportunity the prison offers.</p><p>"Years ago my mom was immature," Nicole recalls. "She liked to be out dancing, out wherever with her friends. Not anymore. She is a much more mature person now. This has allowed her to reflect, study, understand family, to value many things. I think my mom is doing great. She has changed a lot and for the better."</p><p>This personal growth is small compensation for the fact that this is still prison. No union can change that. Women must walk past the foul-smelling solitary confinement chamber dozens of times daily. Guards beat and bribe the prisoners at will. And of course, while many of these women still live with their kids, they miss those treasured parent moments—like watching your child graduate from primary school, or playing together in a park. Life is a concrete hacienda.<br> <br> Inmates in this facility, like most around the country, are mainly here for petty drug charges. Others are in for contraband—bringing in untaxed second hand clothes or cars to sell in open air markets. Debt too can land you some time. Women have an added complication—their husbands exploits. You’d never see a man locked up for his wife’s crimes, but the opposite happens.</p><p>"I am here because for being an accomplice, I guess they call it," says Lucia. "They killed my husband and my son is in San Pedro prison. But they don’t let me leave here, not even to visit my son. They’ve taken everything of mine. It’s been a year and one month. I am not sentenced yet so I don’t know when I’ll ever get out. There are so many of us, preventivas. There is no quick justice here. I’ve had 5 different lawyers, 2 of them took my money and did nothing. Now I don’t have anything left."</p><p>Today, visitors are streaming in. But not for everyone. So many women here are shunned by the world the minute they are swallowed by these high walls. I see Virginia’s sadness as she watches Briseida play with her grandson. She tells me she doesn’t have a family. Yet again, the education delegada finds the positive.</p><p>"Here is where you find your real friends," says Virginia. "Outside, people just say to you: how much do you have, how much are you worth. When you have money, everyone is your friend, your family. When something bad happens to you, no-one is there for you economically or emotionally. Here is where you find your real family because we support each other in the best and worst of times. We motivate each other. Sometimes we cry and we console one another. Or sometimes you cry and they cry along with you."</p><p>I wonder if Briseida’s and Virginia’s and Lucia’s personal growth, has to do with the their insulated female world. These intimate bonds, among only women, lead to the extraordinary. It’s getting on in the afternoon and things are winding down. The aroma of dinner preparations wafts down the passageways. Briseida is saying goodbye to her family. Normally non-chalant about her organization’s achievements, she gets reflective, sharing one last story.</p><p>"A few months ago, there was a problem with a warden here," says Briseida. "She had mismanaged money from the laundry service and that money is ours. She wanted to shut us up about it. We have to have a full revolt to get her out of here because it’s not right that people come here and live off the work of the prisoners and abuse their authority. I was chained in my cell, they didn’t let me go to the bathroom or receive visits. I spent 15 days in the hole. They completely violated my rights. We demanded a hearing and I was let go and then everything turned around. Now the warden has a pending charge against her via the Ministry of Corruption and Transparency. Imagine that! Where in any other part of the world do you see a prisoner, a delinquent as they call us, launch a case against a warden? It’s like a utopia. It’s illogical. That shows that we have rights and values, even as prisoners we have our principles. And especially us as women because it’s us women who continue to be mothers, pillars of our families. I mean we’re the ones who always wear the pants in this world, right?"<br> &nbsp;</p><p><em>The story is part of a weeklong series on the lives of women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds. </a>The series is a collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute</a> for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media at Columbia College-Chicago.&nbsp; </em></p><p><em>Series Executive Producer, Steve Bynum. </em><em>Series Producer/Creative Advisor</em><em>, Jane Saks</em></p></p> Wed, 14 Sep 2011 16:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-14/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98locked-organized%E2%80%99-la-paz-bolivia-91979 Ground Shifters: ‘Justice Buried’ in Ciudad Juárez http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-13/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98justice-buried%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-91917 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-13/mexico.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Ciudad Juárez, Mexico gained notoriety in the 1990s for its epidemic of female abductions. Over a decade, close to 1,500 women were disappeared from the border town. Today, reporter Jean Friedman-Rudovsky profiles Marisela Ortiz, an activist who’s spent years in fighting for justice for families of what's known as femicide. <em>The story is part of a series on women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds. </a>The series is a collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute</a> for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media at Columbia College-Chicago. </em><em>Series Executive Producer, Steve Bynum. </em><em>Series Producer/Creative Advisor</em><em>, Jane Saks</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The bustling downtown centro of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico is deceptively festive. Stalls of bright clothes, dance music and colorful sweets line the plaza’s streets. They seem to mock the area’s history.</p><p>In 1993, women in Juárez started disappearing. Most vanished from here, the centro, abducted on their way to or from their night shifts at the maquiladoras, the city’s infamous mammoth factories that churn out cheap goods for US import. Often the women were on company transport buses. They were raped, tortured and killed; their bodies dumped on the city’s outskirts.</p><p>As of 2005, 600 victims had been found of what’s now known as femicide. Another 800 remain unaccounted for.</p><p>Marisela Ortiz says it all began when a student of her student Liliana Alejandra Garcia, went missing. Lilia’s mother, a teacher friend, sought Marisela’s help.</p><p>"At that time, we only focused on finding the girl and then seeking justice," says Marisela. "She had been raped by many men and then strangled to death. Her body appeared 8 days after its disappearence. We made our actions very public and so soon, other mothers and fathers with disappeared daughters asked us to help them in their search. Little by little because of this solidarity and cohesion among affected families, we decided to formalize our efforts. We officially began our organization in 2001—helping and supporting the femicide victims, and the sons and daughers who were orphaned when their mother was disppeared or killed."</p><p>The organization is called Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa. Marisela and co-founder Norma Andrande became the most well known anti-femicide campaigners in Juarez. Their tales inspired Hollywood movies and sparked worldwide human rights campaigns.</p><p>Marisela, a powerful presence with hair dyed auburn, has not stopped to rest since. She still works as a school counselor.</p><p>Her political routine? Take to the streets, talk to government authorities, press conferences and above all, she says, keep up constant pressure.</p><p>This may sound like standard activist fare. But remember, this is Ciudad Juarez: ground zero of the drug war — over 6,000 murders in the last three years, all supposedly drug-related.</p><p>But that’s not always the case, and being in the public spotlight means you are more likely to be consumed by the city’s tidal wave of violence.</p><p><strong>The costs of (not) speaking out</strong></p><p>Last December, a Juarez mother became enraged when authorities let her daughter’s convicted murderer flee the city. The determined mom planted herself in front of the state capital building in Chihuahua, vowing she’d stay put until her government brought her daughter’s killer to justice. A week later, just steps from the seat of government, the mother was gunned down in broad day-light. No one has been arrested. I asked Marisela if she’s scared.</p><p>"Of course I am," she admits. "For those of us who defend human rights, fear becomes an inherent part of your actions. I think if we didn’t feel fear we wouldn’t be human. Fear is necessary but you have to learn how to control your fear so that it doesn’t paralyze you. When someone has taken a gun to your head and said 'you are going to shut up, you are going to stop with these public statements,' it’s terrible. Your life changes completely.&nbsp; You have to say goodbye to many of your normal daily routines. You have to even say goodbye to many of your loved ones because those relationship are never the same again. I felt obligated to separate myself from my daughters. They were under threat too and so I had to say, 'there’s no other choice. You guys have to leave because to live here means constant danger and risk.'</p><p>"I have never considered leaving. I couldn’t do something so incongruent. We are struggling to better this community so how could I abandon something that I have struggled so hard for, something for which I’ve almost had to give my life? I couldn’t. I am not leaving Juarez. Not until I am in a coffin."</p><p>On a chilly winter evening at Marisela’s school, I meet Laura, 17, and Silvia, 15. Oh, and he’s one, Silvia says, nodding her head towards the little guy on her lap. Classes just ended for the day. Students scamper and shout school in the yard. The sisters sit quietly. They wear thick black mascara, and their mother must have been a beauty because they are stunning.</p><p>"Her name was Elena Guadiana," says Laura, recalling her mother. "We know that it was on a Saturday. She went to do extra hours at the maquiladora and she never came back. That’s all we know. My memories of her are fuzzy, almost nothing. I remember things like smells, the smell of burning sugar. But that’s all I remember. Nothing else."</p><p>It’s amazing that Laura remembers anything at all, as she was just 3 years and ten months old when her mom disappeared. The two sisters were essentially raised by Marisela and others in the group.</p><p>Now, they are notably teenagers - with a surface confidence protecting an inner child not much deeper. But their strength is palpable. Over time, they’ve become active members of Nuestras Hijas.</p><p>"This group is important for me," insists Laura. "It’s been very helpful for me to vent things those difficult thoughts. And to know that I don't have to talk about anything and that’s ok, too. With my mother gone, I want to do something so that what happened to her doesn’t happen again. We are here to support others going through what we went through, just as we were supported in our rough times."</p><p>Laura's sister Silvia agrees.&nbsp; She used to want to be a policewoman, until she says she realized police are corrupt.&nbsp; Now she's put her dreams of being an architect on hold to raise her son.</p><p>"I think that in every march, when we go to the streets and hand out flyers, we are making up for what we weren’t able to do for our mom," Silvia says. "That’s what I’ve come to believe and that’s why I do what I do. Now as an adult, I try to do for others what I couldn’t do before."</p><p><strong>Empowering women, changing laws</strong></p><p>Soon the room fills with girls Silvia and Laura’s age.&nbsp; The steel bar door closes and the workshop begins. The workshop leader quiets the group and explains: Few of us have the chance to tell our stories— to find our voice in this city. That’s what we’re doing here for the next few months.</p><p>Marisela told me she started these programs because the battle of Juarez’s women shouldn’t just be about those who are gone — but about empowering those who are still here. Mothers who’ve lost daughters participate too.</p><p>"Some of these workshops are aimed at empowerment," Marisela says. "So that the women starting taking responsibility in society and stop taking on the role of victim that society gives them. They end up stronger in the struggle and better able to support other women. We’ve been able to accomplish this with some of the women, but not with all. This de-victimization work is very difficult. Many women themselves dont want to let go of the victim role because it becomes a refuge for their emotional necessities."</p><p>In the past ten years, Nuestras Hijas campaigns changed Juarez law. Now the state is required to search for a woman who disappears. Before, authorities would simply say: “It’s not illegal to leave Juárez. Maybe she just crossed the border.” And not do anything. The organization has rescued women from human trafficking rings and even managed a few convictions. Over 90% of Juarez’s femicides have gone virtually uninvestigated, let alone with an arrest.</p><p>But international notoriety triggered by grassroots work like Marisela’s likely put an end to the mass maquiladora bus abductions years ago. These women also helped set a daring precedent for those who seek justice in Juarez: fear will not keep us silenced.</p><p>"Here, we are emotionally involved because the majority of us in the organization have been directly affected by the loss of a loved one, a relative and so we have common objectives," says Marisela. "Nothing separates us no matter how different we are. Some did not have the chance to go to school, others [had] few economic opportunities in their lives, [and] others suffer because their families don’t support their activism. None of that has mattered when it’s come to our work. We focus more on our what we can acheive rather than on what we lack."</p><p>Everyone has a theory to explain the Juárez femicide phenomenon. The maquilas brought hundreds of thousands of young women to an already dangerous border town, often alone. They made easy victims. Or, the justice system, saturated by impunity, fed by corruption. Or that Juarez—transformed into one of the world’s largest free-trade zones – made even human life dispensable. Maybe it’s all of this, rolled into one.&nbsp;</p><p>Without clear cause, there is no clear solution. And the problem grows.</p><p>"Frankly, over the last three years, female disappearances have increased 400% and in these last three years is when we’ve seen the highest number of women violently killed," Marisela points out.</p><p>"This has been hidden behind all the other violence of the street war between drug cartels. This has allowed the government to put the femicide issue to the side, though it wasn’t a real priority for the government to being with. They will never give you any real figures. In fact they try to hide the severity of the problem. Impunity is an inherent part of femicide. Femicide is not only the assasination of a woman but everything that surrounds that act, including impunity and institutional violence. Even after these women are killed they continue to be raped by our government institutions."</p><p><strong>Memories, identities buried deep</strong></p><p>Las Lomas are a set of hilly peaks just west of Juárez. The locale serves as the unofficial cemetery for Juarez’s women. It was a preferred dumping ground for their bodies in the 1990’s. I don’t consider myself a particularly spiritual person, but standing there, I felt something around me in the winter breeze; as if their ghosts surrounded me.</p><p>A local told me that police rarely bothered to come up here. Mothers would climb the sandy soil hills looking for—and often discovering—their daughters bodies; mutilated and decayed.</p><p>Today, a built road stretches to the top and nearby residents come on the weekends to enjoy the view. There’s a soccer field for afternoon games. Eight wooden crosses, painted pink, stand off to the side, covered by tall brush. One more, at the top of a high post, leans sideways, barely hanging on. Passersby, even if they do notice, don’t even glance in that direction.</p></p> Tue, 13 Sep 2011 15:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-13/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98justice-buried%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-91917 Ground Shifters: Amazonian Warriors http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-12/ground-shifters-amazonian-warriors-91870 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-12/With Narda and her two sons.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>In the first installment of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_self">Ground Shifters</a>, reporter Jean Friedman-Rudovsky heads to the Bolivian Amazon basin with Narda Baqueros, a fireball of a woman. Baqueros fights for social justice and equality in one of the most machismo regions in the Western hemisphere.</em></p><p><em>She and her compañeras share tears and laughter, as they strive for economic independence and empowerment in the dense jungle.</em></p><p>JEAN: It’s easy to romanticize the Amazon, especially if you’ve never been there. A National Geographic photo doesn’t convey reality: the heat, the unforgiving soil, disease lurking inside tiny insects, and the hard life of its people.</p><p>[narda ambient]</p><p>JEAN: Today’s challenge: mud. I’m with Narda Baqueros and her two sons, Rider and Alvaro. We’re making our way through the Bolivian Amazon basin, or trying to anyway. In the early rainy season’s loose ground, our motorcycles sink every few hundred feet. Bugs swarm our heads when we stand still. We’re on our way to speak with women activists who survived an armed ambush during a 2008 march for land reform. But what was quite an adventure for me, is just daily life for Narda.</p><p>NARDA: You don’t need to be a millionaire to be happy. You don’t need to be a millionaire to do good. You just need a good heart and good judgment. I’ve always believed in this and I think that’s why I’ve often taken on battles that don’t have anything to do with me, to fight the abuses of this world.</p><p>JEAN: Although Narda is small and round at only about five feet tall, her voice commands attention. She can’t straighten her fingers—a parting gift from decades of manual labor shelling Brazil nuts, the main occupation for women in her town of Riberalta. In 2001, she formed her most recent mechanism for battling the world’s abuses—a collective named OMAB, or the Organization of Bolivian Amazonian Women. It started as an offshoot of the male-dominated workers union.</p><p>NARDA: Even today my friends remember me saying: let’s get out of here. This space is too small for us women. We are going to go farther as only women than what we can do from here. Our first activity was to get together with more women and I taught the few things I knew, resistance strategies, and how to report human or working rights violations. We would meet in the warehouses. I remember many of them didn’t know how to read and write. I would always say that we are part of this society. We have rights too. We can’t wait for our rights to be given to us, we have to demand them, by force if necessary. We have to struggle to win those spaces. They would always say: Ay, I can’t go to the meeting because I have to stay with the kids. I would say: bring them along.</p><p>JEAN: And slowly — the women did. For years, OMAB represented the majority of the Riberalta’s Brazil nut shellers. Now, it’s a catch-all alliance: Narda and her cohorts give sexual and reproductive health workshops, collect testimonies of area human rights violations, accompany women to report domestic violence, protest potentially destructive hydroelectric dams and more.</p><p>Their work would be considered admirable anywhere. But here—where the machismo is like the humidity — thick and sticks to your skin — their efforts are extraordinary.</p><p>Narda brings me to speak with Maira, who co-founded the collective. She’s a very small woman in her 50’s but her speech is rhythmic and soul-full. Narda and I are the only ones in the room, but it sounds like she’s giving a heartfelt sermon to the masses of what it’s like in her world.</p><p>MAIRA: Everyday I’m in these communities, wives load and work Brazil nuts. The men too. But the difference is that when both of them are equally tired, one gets to rest in his hammock and the other has to keep working: bringing water up from a 100 meter well, cooking, peeling the rice or the yucca. Probably the kids are dirty and need to be bathed. There are no husbands who say: oh, don’t worry honey, you cook, while I wash the kids. Or, you do the rice and I’ll do the yucca.</p><p>JEAN: Also too few are husbands who allow political engagement, says Silvia, another OMAB member. She is cooling herself in front of her thatched roof house and shakes her wavy hair away from her eyes while she thinks hard on her reality.</p><p>SILVIA: There is so much machismo. Women can lose their homes for being union leaders. Husbands often don’t understand, don’t support and just don’t get it. When you are a leader, you have meetings. At any moment you can be called in to talk to management or have an internal meeting and you have to be there. When you’re in negotiations or when there are problems, you never stop. That was my life when I was a union leader. I left before dawn to go to work. When I finished I would check in at home to see that my kids were ok and then go back to union business. Often, I wasn’t at home with my family until late at night. It’s really hard.</p><p>JEAN: Silvia and Narda were both forced to choose between la lucha, and their husbands. Silvia is raising five kids without their father, Narda raised three alone.</p><p>JEAN: The two like to recall amusing moments. Normally it’s when Narda gets heated. She once flung her tiny rubber sandal at a distinguished panel because they purposefully ignored her raised hand. A few years ago, she poured Tamarind juice on Bolivian President Evo Morales’s lap because, she says, he tried to claim credit for a community project she and her compañeros built from the ground up. But for every funny story, there are three that make you cry.</p><p>NARDA: Everyone was shocked when we as women started joining in the political protests, when we took to the streets to confront the opposition groups. They would come to beat us down and we women resisted. We have seen our friends die. We’ve seen their children be killed. We have seen them stabbed like in 2008.&nbsp;</p><p>JEAN: Back then, political violence in this area was at its height, recalls Liliana, who we visited that mud-soaked day. She’s 31, and has six kids. The youngest, who’s one, is being lulled to sleep in the hammock swaying at our side. Liliana and other campesinos in a march for land reform were ambushed by armed groups sent by the right wing governor at the time.</p><p>LILIANA: They tried to hunt us down as if we were animals. We had to flee down in the river where we were trapped and that’s when the shooting started. They took no pity. We just ran. Those who couldn’t run — got caught. They were kicked and totally beat up. Kids too, suffering. So many couldn’t cross that river and they started to drown. We got out, but those who didn’t, well I never saw them again. Imagine, my five kids were going to be left without a father or mother.</p><p>JEAN: In addition to taking it to the streets in those days, Narda’s collective helped secure medical attention for the wounded. She traveled 15 hours by land through hostile territory to bring back her niece’s corpse. Belki, who was in her mid-twenties, was killed during that tumultuous time. Narda also ended up bringing home the son of her friend.&nbsp;</p><p>NARDA: When I went for my niece, his body was there too, already dead when I entered the morgue and I recognized him. When I was heading to the plane on my way back, I called my son Alvaro and told him to tell Suela to come to the airport because I am coming back with her son. But she did not know if he was dead or alive. When I arrived I hugged her and said that I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I have brought your son because he was among the dead. These are the times when you just have to swallow all your pain and bury it deep down inside.</p><p>JEAN: These days, Narda’s collective’s work is bearing fruit. It’s most recent accomplishment is Villa Norita, a housing development for Brazil nut shellers and their families.</p><p>NARDA Bueno estamos en la manzana numero 4, lote numero 6 de la urbanización Villa Norita, un programa de vivienda social. Ya estamos con un avance de casi 90%, un avance fisico…</p><p>JEAN: Narda brings me into a nearly-finished brick home, one of 205 in a newly cleared swath of land a few miles outside of Riberalta. Each home sits on a 362 meters squared plot she explains. The houses are 64 square meters, with two rooms, a living room, kitchen and bath. The construction, she says, is 90% complete. She has never owned her own home. But Villa Norita is even more than that.</p><p>NARDA: Villa Norita is not just about owning your own house. It’s about the many of us for whom that dream was unreachable because there were no loan programs, especially not for people like us who had nothing to mortgage.</p><p>JEAN: A recent government program that allows the women to borrow money for housing construction without putting up collateral made Villa Norita possible. As she walks outside, Narda begins to tear up.</p><p>NARDA: Over there in that area where those three blocks merge, that’s where the sports field is going to be. And we are trying to get more land to put in a school and hospital. We are going to keep adding on, improving quality of life with education, health services, sports and more to bring about a new generation of leaders.</p><p>JEAN: There’s still a lot to do — like secure potable water and a sewage system. Narda won’t rest until she gets an embassy or engineering group supply the resources for this vital infrastructure. She sleeps less than 5 hours a night. As it seems the world rests on her shoulders, she receives no salary or stipend. No one in OMAB does. Like almost all activists in Bolivia: their political battles are done in their spare time. Narda, like every other worker or farmer in this country, must make her own living.<br> And that’s not so easy for a known rabble-rouser. She’s been on the Brazil nut industry blacklist for years. So she makes and sells cookies, cakes or jam. She crochets, she sews. She lives on about $125 a month.</p><p>JEAN: Narda’s at it today—seated on a wooden stool, large plastic bowl in lap, mixing batter for a dozen cakes. Her home is like most here: hammock stretching through the living room, an outhouse in the yard. Tomorrow is New Years Eve and Narda laughs as family fills up the house.</p><p>JEAN: But as usual, one person brings her the biggest smile.</p><p>NARDA: I have two grandsons, but Samuel and I have always been very close. I love them both equally but there is something very special about Samuel: you never have to tell him something twice. He’s been at my side in meetings and workshops, since he was three years old. He knows how to negotiate, he talks about women’s equality and he doesn’t care if he steals a few cents from his mom to give away to someone who needs it, even though she gets mad.</p><p>JEAN: Samuel has Narda’s eyes, the small slivers of a quarter moon. Abuela and Grandson share more than this: they are like twins born in different moments in time.</p><p>NARDA and SAMUEL N: y a vos te gustan los hombres que le pegan&nbsp; a las mujeres? S: no, no me gustan. N: que se debe hacer con un hombre que le pega a su mujer? S: Denunciarlo. N: Y a donde? S: a la carcel. N: a la carcel.</p><p>JEAN: Narda asks, “Do you like men who hit their wives right?” “No,” says Samuel. “And what should a woman do if she is hit?” Asks the grandma. “Report him,” Samu confirm. “And where will he end up?” The two conclude: “In jail.”</p><p>JEAN: Narda’s mother was killed when she was seven. Her grandmother raised her and it was that woman, generations ahead of her time in the steamy Amazon basin, who ignited Narda’s righteous fire.</p><p>NARDA: My grandmother always said to me: You don’t have to bow down for anyone. Don’t be scared of demanding your rights. And if you see someone fall, you give them your hand and help them up. If you see someone being stepped on, you push aside the one and you help the other lift himself up.</p><p>JEAN: Narda doesn’t have a granddaughter yet. And yes, Samu will take her battles far. But it’s different, she concedes. I wonder whether Narda’s legacy is, perhaps much broader than her own bloodline.</p><p>NARDA: You know, before, all the union presidents were men. Not any more, now there are women. Before, you wouldn’t see a woman outside working in the streets as a vendor, because it was just a man’s work to earn a wage. Not anymore. Now women leave the house to look for an income. Many are single mothers and they earn their own wage. There are women’s organizations and in protests women are now always present. We are winning this battle. Little by little, but the battle is being won.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>The story is part of a weeklong series on the lives of women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds. </a>The series is a collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute</a> for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media at Columbia College-Chicago.&nbsp; </em></p><p><em>Series Executive Producer, Steve Bynum. Series Producer/Creative Advisor, Jane Saks</em>.</p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-12/ground-shifters-amazonian-warriors-91870 Jean Friedman-Rudovsky chronicles ‘women warriors’ in Ciudad Juárez and Bolivia http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-12/jean-friedman-rudovsky-chronicles-%E2%80%98women-warriors%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-and-bol <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-12/jean.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This week, <em>Worldview </em>kicks off a series that’s part of an ongoing collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Institute for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media</a> at Columbia College-Chicago.&nbsp; The Institute develops projects with journalists, artists, human rights workers and activists to investigate global issues.</p><p>Jean Friedman-Rudovsky was their fall 2010 fellow. She’s a freelance journalist based in La Paz, Bolivia. We feature five stories from Friedman-Rudovsky about women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She tells us why she named her series<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_self"><em> Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds</em></a>.</p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 17:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-12/jean-friedman-rudovsky-chronicles-%E2%80%98women-warriors%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-and-bol