-by Lisan van der Wal-

 

On 11 November 2017, the KALLPA project was officially launched with its first workshop session. KALLPA (meaning ‘strength’ in Quechua, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Bolivia) is an project that fosters empowerment within girls and young women living in Cochabamba. The first workshop created for KALLPA provided space for thirty girls and young women from various backgrounds, connected to one of the four centers working in conjunction with Pintar en Bolivia: Mosoj (girls and young women with severe burns), Viedma (girls diagnosed with cancer), CAM (young mothers who have become victims of domestic abuse) and TIA (orphaned girls who have become victims of abuse).

 

The Status of Women in Bolivia

Bolivia is a country with a strong sense of tradition. As such, role division within a Bolivian household generally conforms to traditional structure: the man is seen as the boss of the house, while the wife is restricted to domestic duties and taking care of any children. Bolivia has a relatively pronounced ‘macho culture’, in which men carry a greater level of status, influence and power within society than that of women. This is particularly evident in poorer and more remote areas within Bolivia, but it is generally the case within all areas and aspects of Bolivian society. This disparity stems from, among other things, a lack of education and an oft-times emotionally reserved culture. Figures show that as many as seven out of ten Bolivian women have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. Research by the Panamerican Health Organization also shows that Bolivia has the dubious honor of having the highest rate of violence against women (of the twelve Latin American countries included in the PHO’s study).

 

Creation & Goals of the project

KALLPA is an initiative of Pintar and Bolivia, in collaboration with a group of local volunteers who are committed to the cause of the emancipation of women in Bolivia. The idea behind the project came about through Pintar en Bolivia’s experiences working with girls and young women in the various centers with which the foundation cooperates. This have been an important source of inspiration for the project. The Art Therapy sessions that we organize turned out to be a great reference point for the KALLPA project. The safe environment provided during the Art Therapy sessions, combined with discussions, designed to draw out repressed emotions, fostered an intimate bond between the women. As they began to open up and share their individual feelings & experiences with others, they were able to achieve a greater sense of self-esteem and independence, and could then look to the future with greater optimism and confidence in themselves. The aim of KALLPA is therefore to make any women involved feel more independent and more powerful, and to educate them on their rights; all during a relaxed & welcoming session in which they can feel safe, free and feminine – while embracing their creative side!

 

The Importance of KALLPA

To get another perspective on the importance of such a project, we spoke with Katia – a volunteer who has been involved with Pintar en Bolivia for a year. She is a successful young woman with her own dental practice in the heart of Cochabamba and is thus a great example for all participants in the program. As a born and bred Bolivian, Katia is well acquainted with Bolivian culture and the position women occupy within Bolivian society, but she is not afraid to take a critical look at the norms and values ​​that prevail in her native country. Watch here the interview with Katia: The great value of Project KALLPA

 

The First Workshop

After a month of preparation, the first workshop took place on Saturday 11 November. The task of coordinating the day was in the hands of local volunteer Natalia Salinas, who has devoted herself to this project with great dedication.

With a busy program ahead we started the day with a quick warm-up game: all girls were given a big cardboard heart to place around their necks, and were then encouraged to intermingle with one another and write a positive message to everyone they came across. Most girls, unaccustomed to stepping so decidedly out of their comfort zones or meeting new people regularly, were initially quite timid and wrote only on the hearts of those who already knew them. Eventually, however, many stepped forward to introduce themselves to the less familiar faces, and quickly becoming familiar through the positive messages that they wrote one another.

The aim of this activity was to immediately challenge the girls, and press them towards bridging the initial gap between themselves and others with shared experiences, so that they could fully grasp that they were among safe and empathetic company. Coming together to talk about their experiences proved invaluable in creating a sense of solidarity and strength amongst the women.

 

This initial task was followed by an artistic workshop where all girls were invited to use paper and acrylic paint to express where they draw their strength in life from. Many different kinds of very special artwork were created in this way; such as that of Anita, who has a dream of devoting herself to caring for stray dogs and cats in Cochabamba. The idea of one day being in a position to do this is what brings her strength!

Also within this session, our volunteers Fabiola and Jacquy coordinated various games and dance exercises for the women; all of which involved a lot of running, laughing and working together!

 

Isabella brings her passion to life to inspire the girls

For something tasty in between activities, we brought along the energetic and enthusiastic Isabella. Although just 19 years old, her passion for baking has already enabled her to create a successful ‘pasteleria’ in Cochabamba. She bakes delicious cookies that she sells via social media; designing the logo and packaging herself for her brand ‘Isabella’s’. The girls were noticeably impressed by Isabella’s talk; and even more so when they got to sample her wares! Isabella’s backed with love: https://www.facebook.com/I.BAKEDWITHLOVE/

 

Lieke survived a dramatic Bus Accident in Bolivia

After the delicious cookies, we heard from 25-year-old Lieke Dormans who studies Medicine in Cochabamba. Lieke was unlucky enough to be involved in a serious bus accident in 2011, and related the trauma surrounding this incident in a distinctly personal and sensitive way to the women at the workshop. The inspirational story of her rehabilitation in the aftermath of this accident struck a particularly strong chord, as feedback on the day’s session demonstrated that the women saw it as a particular highlight. One attendee even commented that Lieke’s story had opened her eyes to the inherent beauty in being different, and that there was no shame to be had in her appearance or in any of her own experiences.

 

Be and feel your best!

After Lieke’s story it was time for the grand finale of the day. When the women heard what was in store for them next, you could see a wave of excitement growing across their faces.

 

They were divided into four groups, to be put through one of our four makeover stands. Our fantastically dedicated volunteers had collected clothes and makeup in advance, and were well-equipped to take care of the girls’ hair, makeup and nails for them. In addition, the women were allowed to choose a complete outfit – though that proved to be a time consuming process! To capture how beautiful they all looked, a photographer was waiting in the wings to capture the ladies while they gave their best camera poses.

Curious about the results of the photoshoot? They are self-evident: thirty thoroughly beautiful, radiant and self-assured girls!

 

The Walk of Strength!

To top off the excitement of the makeover, we decided to end the day with a walk of strength– or KALLPA. For this we had set up a catwalk, so that each of the girls could have fun modelling their new look and experiencing their own moment at the center of attention. They all looked stunning from head to toe as they walked down the catwalk, all the while being cheered on by the rest of the ladies. That was the way that the day ended, and the visible elation on so many faces indicated that our first workshop of KALLPA had been a huge success!

 

The results

The first Kallpa Empowerment day was a big success! And we are proud of that. From the first Empowerment day 19 out of 27 women gave the workshop 10/10, 5 rated the day at 9/10 and 3 at 8/10.