WBEZ | Bolivia http://www.wbez.org/tags/bolivia Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Ground Shifters: Women and girls in Bolivia and Mexico struggle for justice and rights http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-27/ground-shifters-women-and-girls-bolivia-and-mexico-struggle-justice-and- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-December/2011-12-19/jean.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today, <em>Worldview</em> presents part of <a href="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">Jean Friedman-Rudovsky’s</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"><em>Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds</em></a>. It was 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/">Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media</a> as part of the project "Gender, Human Rights, Leadership, and Media".</p><p>First, in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juárez, close to 1,500 women were disappeared over a decade.<span style="font-style: italic;"> </span>We'll hear <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-13/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98justice-buried%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-91917" target="_blank">a profile of Marisela Ortiz</a>, an activist who’s spent years fighting for justice for families of what's known as "femicide". Then, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-14/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98locked-organized%E2%80%99-la-paz-bolivia-91979" target="_blank">we travel</a> to a women’s prison in La Paz, Bolivia. This prison is a miniature city—with shops, businesses, a school and even a union. We find out how its inmates exercise their rights to improve their communal home. Finally, <a href="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" target="_blank">we meet Ana, Brigida and Noemí</a>, young girls in La Paz, Bolivia who are proud to work. In fact, they've unionized, along with more than one hundred thousand child workers across Latin America.</p></p> Tue, 27 Dec 2011 18:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-27/ground-shifters-women-and-girls-bolivia-and-mexico-struggle-justice-and- Worldview 12.27.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-122711 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-december/2011-12-27/girls-front-page.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today, <em>Worldview</em> presents installments from <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank"><em>Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds</em></a>, a series about women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico by <a href="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">Jean Friedman-Rudovsky</a>. It 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/">Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media</a>. Close to 1,500 women in Ciudad Juárez have been disappeared in the last decade. Friedman-Rudovsky <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-13/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98justice-buried%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-91917" target="_blank">profiles Marisela Ortiz</a>, an activist who’s spent years fighting for families of what's known as "femicide." And, <em>Ground Shifters </em>examines a women’s prison in La Paz, Bolivia that functions almost like a miniature city. It has shops, businesses, a school and even a union. Finally, Friedman-Rudovsky<a href="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"> meets </a><a href="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" target="_blank">Ana, Brigida and Noemí</a>, young girls in La Paz, Bolivia who are among the 100,000 unionized child workers in Latin America.</p></p> Tue, 27 Dec 2011 15:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-122711 Bolivians with AIDS slowly begin fight against stereotypes http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-01/bolivians-aids-slowly-begin-fight-against-stereotypes-94505 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-December/2011-12-01/aids1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On World AIDS Day, <em>Worldview </em>looks at Bolivia's nascent effort to raise awareness of the disease. Though the epidemic is growing rapidly around the world, Bolivia has the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the region. In the last three years, the Bolivian government has made a concerted effort to educate the public about the epidemic and provide free drugs to those who need them.</p><p>But Bolivia’s mix of tradition and cultural diversity are proving to be major challenges when it comes to fighting AIDS. Ruxandra Guidi reports.</p><p><em>This piece was provided to us through the <a href="http://www.prx.org/" target="_blank">Public Radio Exchange</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 01 Dec 2011 17:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-01/bolivians-aids-slowly-begin-fight-against-stereotypes-94505 Worldview 11.2.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11211-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-november/2011-11-02/bolivia1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, is under fire for his support of a proposed highway through a national park, as well as other not-so-green projects. These efforts, along with his crackdown on protesters and support of extraction industries, suggest that the U.N. may have spoken too soon when they dubbed Morales the “World Hero of Mother Earth." We discuss the backlash with political scientist Miguel Centellas. Later, we compare Greece to Argentina, which defaulted in 2002 after years of inflation and bad economic policy. As the Greek government teeters toward collapse and the embattled prime minister pushes for a surprise referendum on E.U. bailout plan, we examine what the Argentine experience can teach us about Greece's current troubles. And on <a href="http://wbez.org/globalnotes" target="_blank"><em>Global Notes</em></a>, we listen to the debut album by <a href="http://www.myspace.com/fatoumatadiawara" target="_blank">Fatoumata Diawara</a>, a Malian artist who’s become a hit in Europe.</p></p> Thu, 03 Nov 2011 01:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11211-0 Underneath the sweater: Bolivia’s Evo Morales faces mounting opposition http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-02/underneath-sweater-bolivia%E2%80%99s-evo-morales-faces-mounting-opposition-93691 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-02/bolivia2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Since elected in 2006, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales has been hailed as a morally-driven leader of the people. Known for his trademark alpaca wool sweaters, he's long touted his indigenous roots and anti-American, environmentally progressive politics. Among world leaders, Morales is one of the most active in pushing nations to adopt climate change legislation. In 2009, the U.N. even named him a “World Hero of Mother Earth.”&nbsp;</p><p>Recently, however, Morales’ carefully crafted image has begun to crack. For months this year, he refused to relent in his support for a highway project through the TIPNIS National Park, a protected reserve in the Amazon basin. The area is home to 11 endangered species and three ethnic groups battling extinction of their own.</p><p>In response, indigenous groups recently marched 260 miles in protest from the lowland Amazon jungle -- where the park is located -- to the Bolivian capital of La Paz. Along the way, they faced a brutal police crackdown, which only increased national support for the protests.</p><p>Two weeks ago, Morales finally succumbed to mounting pressure and declared the project would be canceled. The political damage, however, was already done.</p><p>For analysis, we turn to <a href="http://croft.olemiss.edu/Pages/?page=137" target="_blank">Miguel Centellas</a>, an expert on Bolivia and a political science professor at the University of Mississippi.</p></p> Wed, 02 Nov 2011 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-02/underneath-sweater-bolivia%E2%80%99s-evo-morales-faces-mounting-opposition-93691 Bolivia festival hints at income disparity http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-17/bolivia-festival-hints-income-disparity-93197 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-17/bolivia.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today, socioeconomic polarization in the United States is more palpable than ever. Earlier this month, an iconic sign <a href="http://LINK%20http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-10-05/we-are-1-signs-flip-jab-occupy-chicago-movement-92865" target="_blank">popped up</a> in the windows of the Chicago Board of Trade with the words “We are the 1%.” The sign was a flib jab at Occupy Wall Street’s slogan “We are the 99%,” and outraged protesters around the country calling for more income equality.</p><p>But boasting about wealth isn’t just limited to the U.S. Bolivia is one of South America’s poorest nations. If you have wealth in Bolivia’s indigenous culture, it’s considered bad taste to flaunt it — that is, except at Fiesta del Gran Poder, “The Feast of Big Power.”</p><p>Sponsored by the wealthy, the fiesta is an opulent street party held each year right around summer solstice. Economists estimate that up to $40 million is spent each year on the merry-making. Annie Murphy from <a href="http://www.worldvisionreport.org/" target="_blank"><em>World Vision Report</em></a> takes us into this world of conspicuous consumption.</p><p>This story was provided to us by the <a href="http://www.prx.org/" target="_blank">Public Radio Exchange</a>.</p></p> Mon, 17 Oct 2011 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-17/bolivia-festival-hints-income-disparity-93197 ‘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: ‘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 Worldview 9.14.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-91411 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-september/2011-09-14/honduras.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last weekend, Honduras’ powerful security minister and foreign minister resigned, signifying a major shakeup in President Porfirio Lobo’s two-year-old administration. We discuss the ramifications and delve into new Wikileaks revelations about U.S. involvement in Honduras with <a href="http://history.ucsc.edu/about/singleton.php?&amp;singleton=true&amp;cruz_id=dlfrank" target="_blank">Dana Frank</a>, professor of history at UC-Santa Cruz and a contributor to <em>The Nation</em>. In the next installment of <em><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>, reporter Jean Friedman-Rudovsky visits a singular women’s prison in La Paz, Bolivia. More than just a jail, it’s a miniature city of sorts — with shops, businesses, a school and even a union. Then, on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/globalnotes" target="_blank"><em>Global Notes</em></a>, we talk to Brian Keigher from <a href="http://explorechicago.org/city/en/supporting_narrative/events___special_events/special_events/dca_tourism/world_music_festival.html" target="_blank">World Music Festival Chicago</a> about this year’s lineup, packing in more than 50 acts in 22 venues around the city.</p></p> Wed, 14 Sep 2011 15:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-91411 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