According to research conducted by the Pan American Health Organization & Centers for Disease Control, Bolivia has the highest rate of gender-based violence in Latin America. Studies suggest that 70 per cent of all Bolivian women suffer sexual violence, with more than half undergoing assault as children.
A myriad of reasons have led to these staggering numbers, including a weak interpretation of the law and a culture of machismo. Moreover, many women – particularly those from poor or indigenous communities – have little knowledge of their rights, perpetuating a patriarchal system that leaves them vulnerable. In many cases, the victim herself is blamed and pushed into not reporting the crime.
The high rate of violence in the Cochabamba communities continues to lead to significant psychological, medical and social problems including depression, unplanned pregnancies and even death.
A Breeze of Hope Bolivia was established to address the severe problem of sexual assault and violence against children. The focus of the group’s work is child and adolescent survivors, primarily girls aged between three months and 18 years. They come from a variety of marginalised indigenous groups including the Aymara, Quecha, Guarani and Mestizo.
The organisation provides free, holistic support, offering services the girls would otherwise be unable to access. Lawyers, psychologists, social workers, nurses and physicians work together to form a comprehensive plan to ensure the victims’ protection and recovery. The organisation offers therapy services including trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy, dance therapy as well as music and art therapy.
To date, A Breeze of Hope Bolivia has provided services to 1,503 girls and educated over 85,000 people including professionals, government officials, students and parents. In 2015, A Breeze of Hope Bolivia helped secure 52 convictions of offenders out of 52 trials—a 100 per cent conviction rate compared to the government’s two per cent rate.
Photos: Carola Andrade