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Women build a case for housing rights in Bolivia

April 15, 2010




— In the La Guardia municipality in Santa Cruz and the Maria Auxiliadora community in Cochabamba, the air is thick with la fuerza de la mujer: the strength of women. The energy of these single mothers, who wake each day to sustain the weight of a household, is magnified by their desire to gain a more effective political voice. In these two communities, 40 female heads of household have been working to improve their housing conditions, from within their own home to the community at large.

Habitat for Humanity Bolivia has developed a “Citizen Education” program that educates participants about their basic human rights as members of society, particularly in regards to housing issues. The program is geared towards women, helping them to dialogue, negotiate, manage and make important decisions in regards to their wellbeing and that of their children, family, neighbors and communities.

The project promotes the legal and technical empowerment of women in human rights issues, as well as the right to adequate housing, the right to the city, active citizenship for community development, and the social production of housing. Emphasis is given to the participation of women as protagonists in public spaces in such a way that, collectively, substantial changes can be achieved over time.

An intersectoral partnership of diverse actors has made this project possible. In addition to Habitat for Humanity Bolivia, the Human Rights Board, the La Guardia Gender Board, the House of the Woman (La Casa de la Mujer), the Santa Cruz Neighborhood Forum, the Center for Sex and Reproduction Education Research, the Cochabamba Lion’s Club and women community leaders all played a role in the process.

International Volunteer, Marcela Moraga, a human rights specialist, accompanied the workshops in Cochabamba. In Santa Cruz, a group of women leaders brought the results of the project to the Anti-Domestic Violence Committee, with the goal of replicating what they had learned in new communities.

This project is the first step for Habitat for Humanity Bolivia in the process of helping to strengthen the legal and technical capacity of Bolivian women heads of household, capable of empowering others and eager to promote a system of self-management in housing and community issues.

Alejandra Dominguez is in charge of Advocacy programs with Habitat Bolivia. Escarlem Rodriguez is responsible for Community Mobilization initiatives.