Women's empowerment and education in Quechua communities in Villa Charcas, Chuquisaca, Bolivia
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Education and empowerment are two concepts that are interwoven in the rhetoric of development. The main argument is that education leads to empowerment, enabling people to take control over their own lives. This research study explores people’s perception of education in Villa Charcas a Municipality located in Chuquisaca, Bolivia. Moreover it seeks to find out if the gender equity transverse of the Bolivian Education Reform (ERL) of 1994 has had impact on women’s empowerment in Villa Charcas, and if the community sees as good or bad the influence of education on women’s empowerment. The ERL has been an attempt to change the prevailing educational model of the past by focusing its strategies on increased awareness and respect of the different cultures that inhabit the country, respect for the diverse languages and awareness of equal opportunities for women and men. The ERL was the first law that arranged concrete strategies and resources to implement these aspects and to put them into practice. The research for this study has been carried out in Villa Charcas, a Municipality of recent creation located in the south east of the province of Chuquisaca. It has an area of 687,598 km2 and 12.374 inhabitants from which 4.174 belong to the ten communities of this research. There are five primary schools and one secondary school within the area of study. One of the conclusions of this research is that education plays an essential role for Villa Charcas’ people. The parents interviewed, men as well as women equally recognize the importance of education for boys and girls at least until they complete the primary education. Many parents prioritize school duties at home over daily tasks so that their children get a good primary education. The women of Villa Charcas’ do not feel deprived of their right to education as they would have felt a few decades before. They all know that education is free and available and that reading and writing will offer them better work conditions if they attend school. In respect to the gender equity transverse of the ERL of 1994 it was revealed that there have been favourable impacts, but not to the extent of changing radically the community’s mentality. Even though parents and teachers in Villa Charcas confirm there have been positive changes in education, the opinions are that there is still a long way to go. The study revealed that teachers did not fully comprehend gender mainstreaming in order to apply the gender transverse more effectively in the classrooms. Similarly the educational system failed including parents as key stakeholders to promote their active participation and reinforce gender contents and practices to influence changes at household level. In addition education has not been capable of deepening students’ critical understanding in the sense that they recognize gender equity or defy prevailing structures. Despite this situation, the research indicates there has been an evident change of attitudes and perceptions of Villa Charcas women’s lives among the adult generation (age 25 to 56) and the young generation (age 12 to 24). While the older generation has not experienced a formal education which they perceived as empowering during their childhood the young generation has received gender equity education and has expanded their range of opportunities. Thus, young women have increased their aspirations with regard to education; some of these women complete secondary education aiming at superior education and professionalization to access qualified work away from the field of agriculture, where most women previously have worked. The research has also revealed that education is not the only means by which women from Villa Charcas can overcome situations of deprivation or oppression For instance migration has also proved to play a fundamental role in their lives and provides important opportunities for women in terms of work and social and economic influence.
Master thesis in development management- University of Agder, 2012