EL ALTO, Bolivia – “I’ve lost my fear coming here, the fear is over,” said Julia Pacasi, a Bolivian Aymara Indian who studied to be a reporter at a center that teaches indigenous communities of the high plateau around La Paz, particularly the women, to exercise their right to speak up on any subject.
Pacasi is currently one of the first announcers at the local radio station Atipiri (“Conqueror” in Aymara) who took the training course for reporters at the Education and Communications Center for Indigenous Communities and Peoples (Cecopi).
Cecopi and the radio station were founded in 1997 in the city of El Alto near La Paz by Aymara journalist and former Education Minister Donato Ayma, who died in 2016, so that “indigenous peoples can exercise their right to express themselves publicly,” the present director of the center, Mario Gonzalez, told EFE.
The center is in the Senkata district, one of the poorest and most remote of El Alto.
Starting in 2009, it began to create projects allowing women “to train as reporters” so they can “express themselves in every area they take part in,” Gonzalez said.
The courses teach both radio communications and women’s rights, because Cecopi not only wants students to learn broadcasting but also to know they have the right to live without violence, he said.
Since its launch, some 1,200 women have trained as reporters, in an experience that Gonzalez described as “quite gratifying,” because learning to manage newscasts has allowed them to lose the fear of speaking up.”
Once that fear is overcome, some have kept working as reporters while others have entered the public sector or have become directors of social organizations, the center’s director said.
“Training women in radio communications not only produces reporters but also women empowered to demand their rights in both women’s occupations and mixed gender institutions,” Gonzalez said.
Julia Pacasi has lived in El Alto for 20 years and recalls that her Aymara parents used to tell her that “women are not allowed to study.”
Then one day she heard a radio announcement about a course for reporters and decided to attend, which in turn allowed her to discover “that we women have the same rights as men.”