7 out of 10 women in Bolivia face physical, sexual or psychological violence during their lives, mainly in the domestic sphere. Every three days, a woman is murdered, the highest rate of feminicidios in South America. Together with its local partners, Mensen met een Missie counters violence against women and promotes gender equality. We address the underlying social and cultural norms and religious beliefs that perpetuate the normalization of violence, and we influence harmful practices and policies.
Violence against women
Violence against women is deeply ingrained in the Bolivian culture. Widespread machismo and the patriarchal system result in the inferior status of women, and women are even seen as their property by some men. Having grown up in violent homes themselves, women (and men) find it normal if the violence repeats itself within their marriages. Bolivian men learn from an early age to not be vulnerable. They have to live up to this stereotype, so they dare not ask for help if they need it. As mothers, women pass on these macho expectations to their children.
Many women are not aware of their rights or are faced with impunity of their perpetrators. Unequal power relations between men and women are maintained by society, in schools, churches, politics and the media. The vast majority of the Bolivian population is religious. Most people combine their Christian faith with indigenous cultural rituals. Religion is used by some to legitimize gender inequality, but religion is also an important source of connection, hope and inspiration for many Bolivians to work to change these norms.
Many women are not aware of their rights or are faced with impunity of the perpetrators
We, along with our 11 local partners, are committed to reducing violence against women and achieving gender equality. In order to change the patriarchal system and machismo beliefs, both women and men are involved in our projects. We do this from a faith-based perspective as religion plays an enormous role in the daily life of Bolivians. We do this through:
Breaking the silence and challenging norms
We break taboos around violence to prevent exclusion, inequality and discrimination. We train women and youth to be ambassadors against violence and we engage men to promote non-violent masculinity.
We also provide training to specific ‘typically male’ sectors, like the transport sector, and within local communities to promote gender equality.
Support for victims
We support victims of violence through providing guidance, legal advice and psychological support. Most women do not know their rights and do not know where to go when facing violence. Through radio, social media and community meetings, we inform people about violence against women and how to take action.
Influencing policy and improved government response Bolivian Law guarantees women a life free from violence, however, the implementation of the law at local level is lacking. Violence against women has even increased in recent years. We are working to connect and strengthen government officials through lobbying and training to help implement the law and improve their services to victims.
Through radio, social media and community meetings, we inform people about violence against women and how to take action
Thanks to the help I received, I survived the period of violence. I now live in freedom again, and I feel stronger than ever. – Ninfa Cáceres
Together with our local partners we have managed to:
Engage and enable men to promote gender equality
Increase awareness on gender equality and women’s rights among women and in specific sectors
Raise awareness on women’s rights through radio spots and on social media
Increase leadership among women and youth to be spokespersons and ambassadors against violence
Support victims of violence, both legally and psychologically
Improve the commitment and response of government officials in cases of violence and in the implementation of relevant laws and policies
Junior guides youth groups and teaches them that being a man does not mean that you have to be dominant and aggressive.
We provide a safe space where “sisters” support each other.