“I won’t ever move from Quime,” says Susana Valdez. She was born more than 50 years ago in the community of Quime – Inquisivi Province (La Paz-Bolivia). She grew up in a community with many, many challenges including a lack of even the most basic opportunities for education or healthcare. The community is comprised of miners and their families from the surrounding mining cooperatives.

Susana has emerged as an exemplary leader – her leadership skills were born out of surviving so many challenges and difficulties. The local women know and respect her because she empathizes with the realities of everyday life in this poor, rugged community. Tragically, more than 40% of the local women are widows – largely due to industrial accidents and lack of even the most basic healthcare.

She was married at 21 and today she’s the mother of three boys and one young girl. “It has been hard to raise my children..” Susana shared. Finding ways to support her family has always been a herculean task. Her experience has taught her that women should not depend economically on a man. Instead, she developed into a vitally important leader for her community – inspiring countless other women to find ways to develop their own means of support. Indeed, this has evolved into a mission – working with United4Change Center (U4C) to lift women out of poverty and illiteracy. She knows all too well how women are disadvantaged and discriminated against in a machismo culture predominated, not only by the authorities but also throughout the community.

“The work of U4C in Quime was transformational”, she says, as Susana has witnessed the “before” and “after” of the many lives of women who participated in U4C’s education, healthcare and economic development programs. The wonderful change realized in Quime was facilitated by empowering women, co-creating and implementing the Women Center for Training and Production CECAP-Bob Reid, providing participants with equipment and supplies for four technical areas (weaving on looms-machines, sewing, baking and screen printing). The Empowerment Program allowed women in Quime to become economically independent and develop positive self-esteem.

After the confinement experienced for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Susana is returning to her activities as the appointed leader and coordinator of CECAP. The center is training more women while instilling newfound passion, enthusiasm and dedication.

Susana demonstrates genuine affection for participants in the center – often acquainting women with a sense of acceptance and encouragement for the very first time. Through Susana’s wonderful leadership combined with U4C’s proven model and encouragement, many women are discovering their inner resilience. This has been a truly transformative experience for these wonderfully dedicated and hard-working women who now know their considerable worth and capabilities!

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