-By Lisan van der Wal


We will not keep our silence anymore! It’s time for us women to unite and make ourselves strong!

During one of the weekly Art Therapy sessions I was undertaking at a shelter for women victims of sexual-, physical-, psychological- and economical violence, I asked the participants to choose an Art Card. Such a card shows different drawings which could relate to ones current state of mind (feelings, emotions, thoughts and so on). The women participating got an hour  to create their own art work related to the Art Card they had chosen. By doing so showing their current state of mind.

When everybody finished their art work, they all took turns discussing within the group each own work.  When I invited this woman, who’s artwork is in this picture to this article, to discuss her artwork, she told us that she choose her art card – in which flowers, butterflies and landscapes are shown – because:  “It’s like that with new landscapes …, it’s a new environment that you have to discover and where you need to find your place and safety”. This woman is 19 years old, pregnant and recently came to the house after she escaped her current situation.  She left her home because ‘home’ was not a safe place for her anymore. She escaped because she was desperate and didn’t know where to go. Now she is worried about her mother who is still back home and there is no way to get in contact with her without putting her own safety at risk. She arrived all alone  in a completely new and unfamiliar place. Here she had to adapt to everything and everyone in order to find her bearings.



As she bravely shares this she is fighting the pain she feels inside and suddenly starts to cry. She turns her head away in embarrassment. However the first goal is reached: the Art Cart that she choose helps her to release her negative emotions. This is one of the powerful tools offering Art therapy to these vulnerable women. In this non-verbal way of communication -by choosing a simple card- one  both unconsciously and consciously releases feelings and emotions that really matter. In this case  the young woman started to cry. However the group was there for her and she was surrounded by women who understood her.

Unfortunately there are too many women in Bolivia who are victim of sexual-, physical-, psychological- and economical violence. This group is too big and it’s time for that to change. The art therapy shows to be a very effective way for these women to express their feelings and emotions and to work on their self-confidence and self-esteem.

March 8th boasts the ‘International Women Day’ which is a important day for the women in the shelter. It’s a day of recognition for ALL women who experience violence in any possible way.

This April Pintar en Bolivia will organize an exhibition that endorses ‘International Women Day’. The women will show in which way Art Therapy helps them to overcome some of their issues; how they find strength for where the future take them. By showing their artworks they will show their strength, their feelings, their dreams, their qualities, their ambitions and most of all: their rights! Because they are worth it!