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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

“Una Lucha Para La Vida y Libertad”

“El feminismo no es una lucha contra los hombres. Es una lucha contra el sistema capitalista, colonial, patriarcal, racista. El feminismo es la lucha por la vida y libertad.”

Doña Eleiana began her charla (chat) on Feminism in Bolivia with the broad explanation of Feminism. Feminism is not a fight against men, she explained. It is a fight against the systems of capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and racism. Feminism is the fight for life and liberty.

The Feminist movement began in Bolivia after the 1500s when society deemed women as “brujas” or witches. They constructed a compound, “La Casa de las Brujas” that housed hundreds of women who were put away to “protect society” from their knowledge. Brujas were women with knowledge of natural medicine, birth practices, and often broke the caste system by having relations with men in different classes from them. Prior to the hunting of witches, women had power over their own bodies, and the right to their own freedoms. Today, Bolivian society is quite different.

Bolivian Feminist María Franco was a prominent face of the Women’s Movement. Her death in March, being shot multiple times in the face, was meant to send a message to Bolivian women, Doña Eleiana explained. A message of fear. She was a speaker for women everywhere, of all kinds, and brought publicity of the Women’s Movement to the greater Bolivian population. But we will not be held back by fear,  Doña Eleiana said.

She then made the simple statement that was translated by Zack as “The world falls apart when women stop working.” I thought for a moment, and realized I had never heard a truer statement. Why is it that caring for others is not the most important job in our society? Why is it downplayed? Without producing and caring for the human race, it simply ceases to exist. How can something so important not hold the significance it deserves?  Doña Eleiana explained that the recognition of this work is incredibly important in the Feminist movement, and in everyday life.

She urged the women in the room to band together and fight against oppression, to recognize it and stand against it, but allies are important, she told the men. “What I fight for will not be for me, but for the people of tomorrow,” Zack translated.

I found myself empowered and pensive after her presentation. I made a promise to myself to increase my knowledge on how I can help in my home town, and what I can do on a greater scale. I recently read Half the Sky, a book by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which chronicles the crisis women live in around the world, and how we can combat it. My head is more filled with questions than ever before, and I can’t wait to take time to learn more about women’s health, and how to improve it.

Before my semester in Peru and Bolivia, I had been sure, but now I am more sure than ever – I am a Feminist, and everyone else should be. “Esa lucha no es solo para mí, es para todo que pueden benificarse de destrucción de este sistema,” Doña Eleiana said. This fight is not just for me, but for all to benefit from with the breaking of this system.