Bolivia: No Alcohol, No Violence In Women-Led Community
Violence against women remains prevalent in Bolivia, but Maria Auxiliadora, a women-led community in Cochabamba, is trying to change this. The Guardian reports the story.
Maria Auxiliadora, the community in Cochabamba, Bolivia has a remarkable history: since 1999, Maria Auxiliadora has worked to create a safe environment free from domestic violence, under the leadership of women. Families wishing to live there have to abide by the rules established in the community: no sales of alcohol, and no gender-based attacks.
Women tell me, ‘When we lived elsewhere he used to hit me, but with the rules here, he’s forgotten about drinking and never touched me again,’” says Rose Mary Irusta Perez, one of Maria Auxiliadora’s founders, according to The Guardian.
Maria Auxiliadora is a refuge for women in a patriarchal society ravaged by acts of femicide. In the first two days of 2017, Special Force Against Violence – a police force launched in June 2013 to take care of gender-based abuses – registered two acts of femicide. According to the Bolivian attorney general’s office as quoted in Humanosphere, 94 women were killed last year, and 93 killed in 2015.
For nearly 20 years, the people of Maria Auxiliadora have taken the issue into their own hands. The community was founded by five women, and its leadership roles, president and vice-president, are always filled by women.
The founders had the idea of Maria Auxiliadora while working on a committee on intrafamily violence and reproductive health, as a way to help families escape the pressures of living in precarious rented accommodation with abusive landlords. The community’s land is collectively owned and cannot be sold for profit, so prices remain affordable to low-income families and guarantees them a stable home.
Although Maria Auxiliadora does not have formal statistics demonstrating the reduction in domestic violence, its success is widely perceived by the residents and has been recognised on an international level. The community was a finalist in the 2008 World Habitat Awards, run by Building and Social Housing Foundation in partnership with UN Habitat. The nomination explicitly recognised the project’s success in reducing domestic violence and promoting female leadership in a traditionally patriarchal culture.