There are an estimated 33,000 child and adolescent workers in Bolivia’s Cochabamba city, roughly 70 per cent of whom are girls and young women. Since 1991, Tearfund partner Mosoj Yan has been working with girls and teenagers who live on the streets of Cochabamba.
Domestic violence in these urbanised areas is a tragically common factor that forces girls to leave their homes for a life on the streets. Seventeen-year-old Erika shared her story with us.
‘My parents are market vendors, so they were never at home. Because of this I had to take care of my little sister,’ Erika says. ‘In my home I had to face violence continually from my older brothers; they beat me and insulted me every day. That is why last year I ran away from home several times.’
Living on the streets, Erika was in frequent danger and was offered drugs and alcohol. She tells of how a friend invited her to the Mosoj Yan Centre for Street Girls: ‘All the teachers there treated me with affection and respect; they helped me solve my problems and listened to me.’
Mosoj Yan staff helped Erika to return to her family, and are providing counselling and training to restore relationships and bring an end to domestic violence in their home. Because of this she can continue studying, and is now attending a church and youth group.
Erika is grateful for the transformation she has seen in her life. ‘I thank Mosoj Jan for all the help I have received. Because of this I can now have a life free from drugs and alcohol, and maybe I’ll be a professional in the future.’
‘I thank Mosoj Jan for all the help I have received. Because of this I can now have a life free from drugs and alcohol, and maybe I’ll be a professional in the future.’Erika, Bolivia
A little history...
We currently have five main partners in Bolivia. Here are some examples of their life-transforming work:
SETESUR’s Yanapanakuna (meaning ‘let us help ourselves’ in Quechua) programme works for three years in selected villages, empowering impoverished families in the areas of water and sanitation, health, education and food security.
OESER is training church leaders and churches to engage more effectively with social and injustice issues that affect local communities.
A centre run by Mosoj Yan (meaning ‘new life’) helps girls working in exploitative labour to organise into small union groups and provides vocational training. Another Mosoj Yan centre shelters girls (aged 16 to 18) who have lived on the street. As well as offering counselling and skills training, the centre aims to improve family relationships so girls can return to their communities.
Red Viva Bolivia is supporting children vulnerable to child labour or neglect and abuse from family members who work in dehumanising conditions in Potosi’s silver mines. At two day centres, boys and girls get free lunches, while volunteers teach them English and, basic hygiene, help with homework and visit their homes. Qualifications and self-esteem gained will help the children escape poverty as adults.