Bolivia, and especially
the capital city of La Paz, is undergoing a “building boom.” And with an increased demand for labour, many of the workers new
to the construction industry are women, especially indigenous women
from Bolivia’s countryside. They arrive in La Paz with a desire to work, but with limited knowledge
of their rights, they are vulnerable
to abuse and discrimination. Anelise Melendez works
for a local organization helping indigenous women
in the construction sector. “Obviously for women who come
from a rural area to live in a city, discrimination becomes more complex. It is not only because she is a woman, but also because she is indigenous and because of her level of education.” In Bolivia, the ILO works with trade unions, local government and employers to increase awareness about
the rights for indigenous women and also provide training in
occupational safety on the construction site. Natividad Velasco is one of the indigenous
women who received the training. “Safety is very important at work. There used to be a lot of accidents. After we had the safety courses we know what safety is
and we take care of each other.” Perceptions are beginning to change. There is a trade union
specifically for women who work in Bolivia’s construction sector. “Ten years ago, you could rarely see a woman
in a construction work, maybe one or two comparing
the number now, there are more.” The trade union has energized
local government and employers to help ensure indigenous women
have a voice in policies that affect them. “We gladly see that more women
are involved in these associations, and it is evolving in a favorable way. Their voice is being listened
and included in different policies, programs and projects not only
on a nationally but especially locally.” “I think the representation,
union, or federation makes women feel more protected. Because of the representation and also because they can
negotiate with the employer and manage the work hours,
wages and the rights they have.” The ILO also provides business
and entrepreneurship skills training for indigenous women. A “virtual platform” of women
construction workers in Bolivia who have been trained and certified
by training centers helps them enter the job market. “Why do women get in this labour market? Because incomes are better
than in other sectors in Bolivia. We are on that path, we hope to achieve this
in the short term, and there is willpower within
all the actors involved so I think we are moving
in the right direction.’ Indigenous women like Natividad
still face many challenges. But providing skills and making them
more aware of their rights helps ensure they won’t be left behind
in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. In Bolivia, indigenous women,
increasingly, have a voice. Empowering them is making
a difference in their lives. “I want to tell my partners who are
women and have suffered like me. When they still feel that discrimination, I want them to keep going ahead and I don’t want them to fade. They have to get ahead. They have to be a rock that cannot be bend.” International Labour Organization (ILO)
2017

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