Climate Change is About...Women

Sowing resilience to patriarchy and climate change in peri-urban Bolivia

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Women in Focus

Climate change is yet another form of systemic violence that women striving to care for their families are having to confront.

Doña Rosa reaches for several old plastic Coca-Cola bottles filled with dehydrated onion, spinach, carrot, and a variety of other vegetables. She empties a little of each vegetable into a bowl and, after a few minutes, adds several handfuls of these vegetables to the pot of boiling water on her stove. This preserved food not only saves the time of buying, preparing, and chopping vegetables; it also provides meals for her family when there are blockades of the city or when vegetable prices rise, both of which are common occurrences in the life of Dona Rosa Angulo – a woman living in the southern zone of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Read on: Why Climate Change is About Women: Bolivia in a Global Context
 – by Carey Averbook

The example of the women-led 'Community María Auxiliadora' in Cochabamba offers many lessons and much inspiration on how to build alternatives that not only respond to climate change but also to the violence that most women in these contexts experience. The community was initially set up by five women in the Zona Sur (South Zone) of Cochabamba, where a large part of the population lives at the margin of the opportunities they came in search of. The women founders saw in the collective model of sustainable living an alternative to the commercialization of land, the crisis of our economic model, and the violence that women experience.

Read on: Climate Change and Women in Bolivia: A View from the Ground
 – by Leny Olivera Rojas

The stories of Irene, Isabel, Rosa and Maria Eugenia, captured here in photographs and their own words, offer an understanding of how other hardships these four women have been through, such as poverty, have given them a deep ‘wisdom of resilience’ that they now apply to the challenges being generated by climate change - for example by saving water and other resources, or growing gardens. They speak to issues such as how we become more self-reliant in the food we consume and how communities make choices to be resilient together. Despite these achievements, the violence in these women’s lives continues to be a challenge for the community.

Read on: Project introduction: Climate Change is About...Women
 – by Jim Shultz


Maria Auxiliadora is a community with a difference. Meet four women reclaiming their lives from violence on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Who made this

Carey Averbook

I am a photographer and multimedia storyteller currently based in Washington, DC. Originally from North Carolina, I first engaged in local issues around literacy and environmental racism. Over time I was drawn to issues around international development, food sovereignty, and climate change. I’ve lived in Cochabamba, Bolivia on and off since 2012. Now I’m pursuing an MA in New Media Photojournalism at George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts. I’m interested in systemic issues, photography as a social practice, and doing projects when the images are useful for the “subjects” and not just of them. I am drawn to doing collaborative projects when “subjects” become image-makers themselves. I also am exploring the possibilities of online multimedia with strong writing, visuals, story structure, sound, graphics, and design. I’d like to share the skills and knowledge I have with youth and others who are learning to tell comparative stories.

This project was an incredibly rich one for me. Not because of what we created, but because of the process and the relationships that were built. I was impressed and humbled over and over again by the incredible women in the narratives. I learned from their perspectives, hard work, huge hearts, and vision of a healthy, safe, happy community. I’m grateful to them for sharing their home, stories, time, and meals with us.

I learned just as much from working with Leny. It was definitely challenging as well. And I know it was challenging for her working with me. I deepened my sense of reciprocity and attention to detail through Leny’s approaches. Our conversations on the hours of micro and trufi rides we took were probably what transformed me the most. Doing video and photography projects every week, I carry with me what I absorbed from her… this morning, I washed the dishes for a “subject.” I’m grateful for everything she shared: her honesty, her perspective, her communication with me, her critiques, her patience, and her support.

A huge part of this process has been working with the Democracy Center team. It has been quite the learning experience for me bringing a project of this size to the web and into the world. I’ve learned about teamwork, especially in making a multimedia project and putting it online. Many people's hours of Skype conversations, energy and skilled work have gone into this project. The result is what it is because of the team involved.

Leny Olivera Rojas

I am an activist who got involved in various collectives working to defend natural resources in 2000. In this time I learned a great many lessons during the Cochabamba 'water war'. For the last eight years I have been involved in autonomous women's spaces, challenging sexism and violence towards women from within our context – for example through political and social engagement, and playing traditional Bolivian music in a women’s group.

I studied sociology and am currently interested in better understanding the complex realities of women in contexts such as that of Bolivia, and the intersection of these realities with women’s ethnic, economic and sexual conditions. I am interested in working with other collectives and activists to build strategies of struggle which are resistant to being reabsorbed or co-opted by patriarchy and capitalism.

This project allowed me to see close up the tough reality that many women are living, but at the same time I saw the fortitude they have to keep going in spite of it. I am so grateful that these women allowed us to enter their space, hear their stories, and see their daily lives. It was not easy because it stirred up a lot of feelings related to the injustices one suffers simply for being a woman, but it also inspired me in terms of what we are able to achieve through community spaces managed by women.

I agree with Carey that this project was very enriching not only for the final product that came out of it but for the process of making it. I also recognize that the process was doubly enriching – and more difficult to do - with Carey as my co-producer. Seeking to be critical and reflexive and aware of who we each were and of the context of a place like Cochabamba's Zona Sur certainly was not easy. But this process would not have been challenging in the same way without the predisposition that I saw in Carey to recognise her privileges in a country like Bolivia. It was an experience one doesn't get to have often, and it allowed us to deepen and touch on themes which are often difficult and uncomfortable to talk about. I very much appreciate her willingness to listen, her honesty and the trust that she placed in me. Likewise in the whole Democracy Center team who have worked on the presentation of this project and made it possible for it to be shared outside Bolivia.

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More Resources

Find out more about the background to this project and the themes it explores.


We would like to take the opportunity to thank Doña Rosa, Doña Isabel, Doña Irene, y Doña María Eugenia for their time despite their busy lives, for allowing us to spend time with them, to share and learn from their experiences.

Also thanks to: Arnold Brouwer from Alerta Verde who supported the process of making urban gardens in the community, Oscar Ríos Campos from Fundación Comunidad y Acción, Eco Feria, Procasha, and Atica.

Project design, research, & fieldwork by:
Leny Olivera Rojas & Carey Averbook

Photos by:
Carey Averbook

Project supervising & editing by:
Maddy Ryle

...with assistance from:
Sian Cowman

Layout & code by:
Anders Vang Nielsen

Proofreading in Spanish:
Juan Pablo Soto Jiménez

Preparation of maps of the community:
Alan Forsberg