Empowering Indigenous women and girls to access justice in rural Bolivia
“Before, we did not know the laws and we have suffered a lot from violence … Now we have learned how to defend ourselves as women.” – Maritza,* survivor of violence
In Bolivia, almost 60% of ever-partnered women aged 15 to 49 have experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once. Indigenous women and girls living in rural, remote areas are at particularly high risk due to discrimination and their limited access to information and support services.
With support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, the women-led, women’s rights organization Centro Yanapasiñani Bolivia para el desarrollo de la Mujer y la familia (CYB) has been leading a project since 2021 to support Indigenous Aymara women and girl survivors of violence in a rural area of Coro Coro municipality to access justice and reclaim their rights.
As part of its awareness-raising activities, CYB has been organizing regular training sessions to provide rural women and girls with basic knowledge on the different forms of gender-based violence, existing laws and appeal procedures (for both Indigenous and ordinary justice) when reporting violence. So far, the project has trained 166 Indigenous women to identify and report cases of violence.
Yohana*, a project participant, explains: “I train myself to guide my daughters so that they do not suffer the same violence that I suffered, and I am grateful to the sisters of CYB for teaching us so much about our rights."
In parallel, CYB has been conducting “self-diagnosis violence” workshops with women leaders from 70 communities volunteering to support their peers. This uses a participatory methodology, where women are encouraged to identify the causes and various effects of gender-based violence.
In addition, CYB has been campaigning via local radio stations, using the Aymara language, to raise awareness of the long-term, negative impact of gender-based violence and the importance of collective action to end it.
Zonia Fabiani, Director of CYB, explains that through this process: “Violence against women is gradually being denaturalized.”
Municipal network of community promoters
Recognizing the need for free, culturally sensitive and geographically accessible support for survivors, CYB has established a municipal network of community promoters comprising 39 trained volunteers, all of them women who have survived violence themselves. The network aims to provide support services such as emotional support, counselling and accompaniment of women and girl survivors of any form of violence in their local language, and to raise awareness among communities. Network members also act as intermediaries between Indigenous and ordinary justice in cases of gender-based violence.
The network also holds workshops – in communities, schools and public events such as community fairs – to raise awareness of gender-based violence, laws and human rights.
Working with Indigenous authorities
CYB works hand in hand with Indigenous authorities to further protect the right of Indigenous rural women and girls to live free from violence through institutional change.
The organization has worked with these authorities to establish a new regulatory model for preventing violence against women and girls, which was approved by a public assembly and is now being disseminated among Indigenous authorities in Coro Coro municipality. The goal is to provide free and timely care to survivors within Indigenous authorities’ jurisdiction and the framework of existing regulations and customs.
Mila Ioncheva, Portfolio Manager at the UN Trust Fund, explains: “The project implemented by CYB successfully illustrates how the principle of leaving no woman or girl behind becomes a reality when marginalized women are empowered and can live up to their full potential.”
*Names changed to protect identity
 Bott S, Guedes A, Ruiz-Celis AP, Mendoza JA. Intimate partner violence in the Americas: A systematic review and reanalysis of national prevalence estimates. Based on data from: Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE). Encuesta de Prevalencia y Características de la Violencia Contra las Mujeres 2016: Resultados.
 Yanapasiñani Bolivia Centre for the Development of Women and the Family