-by Emilia Hall-


The morning of Día de la Mujer found our usually sunny Cochabamba under a rare rainy day. Making our way to CBA (Centro Bolivianio Americano, a socially focused school that teaches English), we worried somewhat about attendance…for if there’s one thing Cochabambinos hate, it’s rain. What if everyone stayed sheltered at home? Would the bad weather effectively shut down National Women’s Day? But as soon as we ducked into the auditorium, our fears were quelled. The room was full of expectant and engaged students and teachers, ready to immerse themselves in Nation Women’s Day. The day was most certainly not doomed – in fact, as the Charla progressed, the day was an easy success.

After a few discussions concerning Bolivian gender stereotypes and the question of femininity, Lisan herself was welcomed to the stage. Lights down, PowerPoint up…the “Charla de Inspiración”, inspirational talk, could begin.

Lisan started the talk by giving an overview of Pintar en Bolivia: its origins, how it started, how it works, why it’s here. There was a lot of interest from the students over what Art Therapy entails – Art Therapy isn’t something that really exists here in Bolivia, and they were interested to learn how much Bolivia could benefit from this non-verbal form of therapy.

After talking about the NGO, Lisan quickly moved on to the qualities she needed to start up Pintar en Bolivia in an entirely new country, in an entirely new language, in an entirely new culture. This was a key point in the charla. Here, the “Inspiración” part could begin. Lisan talked passionately about the concept of believing in yourself, and giving up the constant barriers and excuses we construct around ourselves. Lisan also did not shy away from contemporary issues that face Bolivia today, such as the machismo culture that permeates through generations and its damaging effects on both men and women. She also touched upon the taboo of talking about mental health, and the sadly low opportunities of psychological help available. Here, Art Therapy was offered as a solution. In a place where people are not used to talking about their feelings, and expressing emotions through words, Art Therapy is a useful and conducive way to allow people to communicate to an empathetic ear.

It was difficult to predict how the audience was going to respond, especially on issues that were so personal to Bolivia – but as soon as Lisan asked the audience to share their perspective, people were keen to stand up and communicate their thoughts, and start debates. It was also very positive to see men talking about the negativity of machismo, and engage in a feminist dialogue.

It was heartening to see such an engaged and aware generation of young men and women, wanting to talk about and understanding questions such as gender equality, mental health and positive self-image. Lisan conveyed the importance of these concepts alongside the positivity that she has managed to create through Pintar en Bolivia. Clearly, as Lisan said in the end of her speech: “Somos capaces de mucho más de lo que creemos”… “We are capable of so much more than we think”.



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