Media Center



July 17, 2003 - Washington, DC

I am delighted to address you on this occasion, not only because of the CIM’s importance in connection with policy for the advancement of women in the Americas, but also because of the work done by my mother-in-law, Carmen Sánchez Bustamante de Sánchez de Lozada, in the 1940s as Bolivia’s first representative to the CIM. Accordingly, in 1988, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Commission, Carmen Sánchez Bustamante was recognized by the Organization for her years of dedication and her important contribution to the struggle for the rights of the women of the Americas.

Today, I am gratified to follow in her footsteps as, for several years, a team of supportive individuals and I have been committed to working to create more and better opportunities for Bolivian women of low educational level and limited economic resources. We have undertaken to overcome gender discrimination, today an inescapable factor in Bolivia’s social and economic problems, one that must be addressed as a matter of urgency by society as a whole. To that end, we established the Carmen Sánchez Bustamante Foundation – known as the Carmen Foundation – whose mission is to promote equity and social inclusion at every level of Bolivian society with a view to full effectiveness of human rights and sustainable human development.

As First Lady of Bolivia and as President of the Carmen Foundation, I must say that, despite major achievements, a long and difficult road lies before us. Nonetheless, I am certain that the work done on behalf of Bolivian women – mainly to generate work opportunities and stable incomes – constitutes a vital activity in promoting development and preserving the democratic underpinnings of Bolivian society.

I cannot fail to note that, although the history of Bolivian women has known extraordinary moments, it is as well a reflection of much unnecessary suffering and backwardness. After many years of struggle for equity, Bolivia must still make dramatic progress if it is to eliminate different forms of culture-based gender discrimination that deny the vast majority of women access to economic, social, and political spaces. Such discrimination also has negative impact on women’s lives and the lives of their children. Vast economic resources and vast amounts of energy to transform society are wasted every day by encumbering these women’s creative potential.

Although such profound transformations are under way, an urgent need remains for institutional and community programs to be designed to promote full development of the capacities of working women. Bolivian society can only move ahead if it is possible for women to develop their capacities to the fullest, women who dream and weave a web of their dreams; women whose work betokens their spiritual wealth and their daily life and culture.

In this context, I invite you to visit the Bolivian textile exhibition and the program “El Dorado: The Route to Fair Trade,” now on display in the Aztec Patio of the Organization of American States, whose significance is precisely to respond with deeds to those women to whom we have undertaken to work productively.

“El Dorado: The Route to Fair Trade” focuses on the production and sale of high-quality Bolivian crafts. Its approach is to ensure that craftswomen receive fair compensation for their work. El Dorado is a reflection of the relationship between our ancestral world – rich in design, color, historical figures, and traditions – and the modern globalized world.

As you will note, the El Dorado exhibition projects a modern, competitive commercial image. Every line of craft product not only reflects its ethnic and cultural identity, but instills respect therefor through the information provided on its origin and historical and anthropological background. El Dorado is creating different avenues for trade for Bolivian women, providing for the public a synopsis of their range of craft products and instilling respect for the diversity thereof. El Dorado introduces new products in the market and is helping to preserve traditional techniques, knowledge of which was being lost.

The El Dorado program is assisting in the rediscovery of a genuine treasure – not precisely the enormous number of legendary gold artifacts, but rather the greatness of the people of Bolivia, and of their history and culture.

Thank you very much.