Combating women trafficking
La Paz, Bolivia: "In Bolivia, many women do not know what people trafficking really means," says Sara Rodríguez-Argüelles, a UNV volunteer working with UNIFEM. But her work helps prevent women from finding out the hard way.
"Some women are even unaware that they have themselves been victims of trafficking," continues Ms. Rodríguez-Argüelles, focal point for UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) in La Paz. "Prevention is the key because, although trafficking is categorized as a crime in Bolivia, it is extremely difficult for someone to be arrested for it."
This is why the most effective alternative is to work on prevention, she explains, since it helps to stop women from being deceived and from falling into trafficking networks.
The women of Santa Cruz, for example, are considered particularly 'beautiful', and 'beauty' plays a large role in local culture. Women here are often lured under false pretences by 'model agents' who are in reality people smugglers.
In collaboration with a local NGO, UNIFEM supports a project aimed at preventing women trafficking in Villa Fátima, a deprived area of La Paz. Through workshops, women leaders have been trained on what trafficking means and entails. Ms. Rodríguez-Argüelles says that the idea is for these women to act as volunteers and later replicate the workshops for the rest of the women in the community.
"During the workshop, one of the women wanted to share her story, and it turned out that she had been a victim of trafficking herself. She did not realize that what she had been through was actually categorized as a crime, so she was not conscious of having been a victim."
To illustrate the issue of child trafficking, the film 'Pinocchio' was screened. "According to the story, Pinocchio was kidnapped, not allowed to study and forced to work," Ms. Rodríguez-Argüelles points out.
The Spanish national is also involved in other projects in coordination with grassroots indigenous women's organizations and with other UN agencies. In cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), for example, Sara is supporting a vocational training project for girls who have been victims of commercial sexual violence.
Other fronts include sensitization and dissemination campaigns about the standards of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as other activities such as a cinema forum about violence against women. Supported by the Embassy of Canada, the forum encouraged a debate about several gender issues.
"All of this constitutes a drop in the ocean amongst all that is currently being done towards equal opportunities for women in the country," Ms. Rodríguez-Argüelles concludes. "With the new constitution voted in January, the idea is for the Government to continue boosting gender equality plans - within that context, our contribution can also help to breach equality gaps currently present in Bolivia."