FMS missioner Emily Ward (Bolivia, 2006-2009) with women in the Tantakun bakery of Mineros San Juan in Ushpa-Uspha, Bolivia.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today, organizations and individuals across the world recognize that securing peace, social progress, freedom and the enjoyment of human rights depends on the participation, equality and development of women.

The United Nations announced that the theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty.”

“Key contributors to global economies, rural women play a critical role in both developed and developing nations — they enhance agricultural and rural development, improve food security and can help reduce poverty levels in their communities. In some parts of the world, women represent 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, comprising 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide.” – For more statistics, visit the UN’s website.

One great means of empowering rural women in Bolivia is Tantakuna, which means “together” or “united” in the native Quechua language. The program, part of German NGO Proyecto Horizonte, strives to improve the women’s social and economic potential through direct employment, training, education and social support and counseling in a safe environment.

From 2006 to 2009, our missioner Emily Ward served in solidarity with the Tantakuna women. Her mornings were spent working closely with four women in the bakery washing dishes, rolling out dough, manning the oven, and even accounting. On Friday afternoons, Emily spent time with the artisan group which made traditional handcrafts using Andean techniques passed down through the generations.

The baked goods and crafts were sold and the proceeds went directly back to the women, which allowed them to contribute to their family’s income and achieve a level of independence.

While in Bolivia, Emily also assisted in workshops on topics such as nutrition and domestic violence and taught computer classes.

FMS is blessed to be able to send our missioners to work with organizations in poor communities overseas that truly make an impact on the lives of the people.

For further International Women’s Day reading about empowering rural women, check out one of Emily’s blog entries: