Social Issues

Indigenous women learn sewing and pastry making to empower themselves and fight violence

Gina Baldivieso

Mocomoco (Bolivia), Oct 16 (EFE).- Pastry-making and sewing polleras, the wide skirts used by the Aymara cholitas, have become allies of Flora Silva to promote women’s empowerment in rural communities, with whom she shares the content of the law against gender violence.

Behind this initiative is the “Nayrar Sarapxañani” Association, directed by Silva and presided over by Spanish priest Diego Plá, to undertake education, nutrition, and health programs in the Aymara and Quechua communities of the Mocomoco municipality, some 218 kilometers (135.5 miles) from La Paz.

Plá was the parish priest of Mocomoco for 14 years. When he was called to La Paz in 2019 with a new mission in the Bolivian Episcopal Conference (CEB), Silva was practically in charge of the entire project, although always with the priest’s support.

They have launched initiatives such as dining halls for schoolchildren in the communities of Pacobamba and Ingas, forestation and recycling projects, and now the program for women “because their rights are undermined,” Silva explained to EFE.

“We work in this area because there is a lot of mistreatment of women, so we have emphasized the Integral Law to guarantee women a life free of violence,” Silva said.

Breaking cycles

Born in Mocomoco and of Aymara origin, Silva has confirmed with her work that the source of domestic violence is distrust, economic issues, and alcohol consumption.

“And as they have grown up in a violent society, they repeat the story,” she added.

Six years ago, a femicide in Mocomoco motivated her to act, so that the new generations break these cycles.

She also saw the need to promote empowerment in the communities so that women “learn a trade to generate an income and thus be able to help in their homes,” she said.

This is how she conceived the program to teach women to sew skirts and petticoats, prepare pastries, and to get to know the law against gender violence or ‘Law 348.’

“My idea is not only to generate an income in their homes but to empower them in many areas so that they can be leaders in their communities, and request permission to enter and speak at the community meeting,” she explained.

The work is done in workshops open to all residents and women’s groups that meet twice a month, where Silva also seeks to promote values such as companionship and empathy.

The protagonists

The unstoppable Flora, whose life takes place between La Paz and Mocomoco, appealed to the bakery to explain to the indigenous women about Law 348 since the process of making a sponge cake “is delicate” compared to the hardness with which the marraquetas, the typical bread of La Paz, are kneaded.

“In what I taught them about the process of making a sponge cake, I told them that they are going to touch the dough slowly, not clumsily, and that is how I want you to treat your children and be treated by your partner as well,” she said.

Silva is optimistic about the results of her programs since many of the participants’ husbands now encourage them to continue attending, either because they will be assured of a tea-time treat or because “they like their wives to learn about their rights.”

Young Nora Choconapi, a member of the newest group created in Mocomoco in August, told EFE of her desire to learn about the law and the trades to generate her income.

“Throughout the country, there is a lot of violence, not only against women but also against men. We have to learn about violence. There is a lot of feminicide, and they are teaching us how to stop this violence,” she said.

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