Discrimination and training: women’s challenges in Bolivian politics

By Gabriel Romano

La Paz, Sep 6 (EFE).- The political participation of indigenous women is still a pending issue in Bolivia due to discrimination, lack of training spaces and adaptation to technology, despite national laws that promote equity representation and sanction political harassment.

The difficulties of indigenous women appear as they enter political activity and become complicated if they are elected as authorities. This is amid tensions with male peers and the dilemma of filling the role under their own conviction or the decisions of their organization.

The cases of pressure for many to resign from their positions despite having been elected, the forced dismissals and even murders such as that of councilor Juana Quispe in 2012 are part of a contradictory situation in Bolivia. The country’s law states there must be as many women in parliament as men.

“There are more difficulties” than progress, indigenous deputy Toribia Lero of the opposition Citizen Community told EFE, since “the aggressions and violence continue” against women who seek to make a path in politics.

Lero said women have their “own” way of doing politics that differentiates them from men based on their “self-determination,” something difficult to achieve in contexts of polarization such as the one faced by the country after the crisis of 2019 and that it has divided the positions around accusations of “coup d’etat” or “electoral fraud.”

The legislator said it is difficult to make a path in politics in which she considers there should be “permanent training” and knowledge of the “diversity” of the country to really “produce something” and not just raise their hands to vote.

The difficulties he identified stem from a context that continues to be “patriarchal and sexist” since violence arises both against opposition women because they must “submit” to the majority party and the ruling party asked to “raise their hands en masse” without the option to “decide freely,” he said.

Lero said it has come to be thought that it is a simple “obligation” to complete 50 percent of quotas for women, something that in her opinion “is not like that.”

In much of Bolivia’s rural areas, the political role of women must coexist with their work in their family, work and care of animals, according to Teresa Condori, coordinator of the Center for the Integral Development of Aymara Women.

She said indigenous women need “a boost” to hold public office in areas where “there is a lot of discrimination” such as the family itself and political spaces.

Condori said difficulties that arise are mainly in the need for “sufficient higher education” and the necessary “technological management” that have become requirements for the performance of political work.

A publication from the center said indigenous women “are used by different political parties as symbols of struggle” and that “discrimination” persists despite the norms that guarantee “parity and alternation” in the case of elective positions.

“Men disqualify women on the grounds that they have no training” and that although there is a real increase in women in politics, “this does not mean that they can exercise their political rights,” the text read.

Political participation of women in Bolivia began between 1947 and 1949 when those with education could opt for municipal offices, although it was not until 1952 that equal rights were established with men when universal suffrage was established.

In 1997, a national law established that 30 percent of the lists of candidates for parliament should be made up of women, something that was extended to 50 percent in 2004 through criteria of parity and alternation.

Currently, 55.6 percent of positions in the senate and 46.9 percent in the lower house are women. EFE


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