There are over 36 indigenous groups across Bolivia who for decades endured marginalisation and discrimination. Indigenous populations suffer higher levels of ill health than the rest of the population and are more likely to experience disability and a reduced quality of life.
In 2010, the government announced a series of education reforms to introduce bilingual and intercultural education across the country but the process was flawed and failed to reach many communities.
While there has been great progress on promoting Bolivia’s multi-cultural character and ethnic diversity, many indigenous people remain marginalised on an economic level. Half of Bolivians live in poverty but that proportion rises to up to 75 per cent in the case of some indigenous rural communities.
According to official figures, some 388,119 people in Bolivia are living with disabilities although the number is believed to be much higher. Many cases are preventable. Malnutrition during pregnancy, hazardous working conditions, inadequate sanitation and a lack of access to proper medical care all increase susceptibility to disease and disability.
Fundación Machaqa Amawta (FMA) was established in 2004 with the goal of improving the quality of life of native indigenous peoples and promoting Bolivia’s ethnic diversity through a series of education programmes designed to complement the formal education system.
The organisation’s success lies in its engagement of whole village communities, including parents, students, teachers and administrators. Marginalised people are given the training and tools to help them have more control over their futures.
FMA has also successfully promoted the inclusion of children with disabilities into the formal education system, while offering support and training to their families. FMA’s major impact has been the successful inclusion on the social, political and institutional levels, of the indigenous populations of Bolivia. FMA has helped train indigenous groups in basic skills, governance and citizenship, as well as agriculture. The groups that have benefited include the Urus, Irohito, Chipaya and Poopo.
The organisation has counted 7135 beneficiaries including children, youth and adults.
Photos: Patricio Crooker/Stars Foundation