The Paraguay Okakuaa project ends its activities in Paraguay training Indigenous women and adolescents to access better workforce opportunities in the Paraguayan Chaco region.
Closing of the activities of the Paraguay Okakuaa project.
There are several Indigenous groups living in the Department of Boquerón, in the Chaco region of Paraguay. Most of them face several disadvantages, including fewer years of formal education and less access to basic services in comparison to the national average.
In some cases, the residents of these communities have not been employed in jobs with acceptable conditions of work and are actually more vulnerable to forced labor as a result of years of discrimination and social exclusion.
To support the eradication of labor and rights violations of these communities, Indigenous women and adolescent girls and boys of the Paraguayan Chaco received trainings from the Paraguay Okakuaa project, implemented by Partners of the Americas (Partners) and funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL).
On July 21, 2021, in an emotional and celebratory closing ceremony of project activities in the Department of Boquerón, participants received their certificates of completion of the vocational trainings provided by the project.More than 100 adult women and 50 adolescents completed 120-hour bakery courses offered by the project to improve the livelihoods of Indigenous households.
The event celebrated three years of intense work from Paraguay Okakuaa in Boquerón dedicated to improving compliance with labor legislation and working conditions, with an emphasis on the prevention of child labor and forced labor. The project had been active in the Department of Guairá since 2015, and in 2017, received a cost extension to expand its efforts to Boquerón.Two of the adolescents who received bakery trainings and today have more tools to access protected adolescent work.
Paraguay Okakuaa provided 116 women and 52 adolescents from the Indigenous communities of Pesempo'o, Betania, and Feliciano Saldívar the opportunity to complete 120-hour bakery trainings. The vocational trainings served as part of a strategy to prevent child labor by improving the livelihoods of households with children engaged in or at risk of child labor and providing adolescents with skills and competencies to access decent work.Participants who have already started their bakery ventures and received supplies and utensils to strengthen their production.
Thanks to the trainings, 33 of these women have already started their own bakery ventures and received supplies and kitchen utensils to improve the efficiency and success of their enterprises. One of these women is Virginia, a young mother of four who, with the help of her husband, built a clay oven for the production of baked goods in her own home.
“I enrolled in the bakery trainings because I always hoped to have an income-generating job that would allow me to take care of my children," Virginia said. "Thanks to the training, I feel that I can fulfill that wish while working from home.”
During the closing ceremony, Paraguay Okakuaa's Project Director, Macarena Jiménez Granda, shared how the project started in the Department of Boquerón in 2018 to support the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security (MTESS) in the establishment of its Regional Office in the departmental capital city of Filadelfia. From the start of its work in this Department, the project has been a joint effort with the Governor's Office and the Municipalities of Filadelfia, Loma Plata, and Mariscal Estigarribia.
Macarena Jiménez Granda, Paraguay Okakuaa's Project Director, giving a speech during the closing event of the project activities in Boquerón.
From 2018 to 2021, the project reached 965 people via direct training sessions on labor rights, and an additional 163 people through campaigns to raise awareness about the risks of forced labor.
Paraguay Okakuaa also supported the MTESS in the implementation of a communication campaign titled "Paraguayan Chaco with Decent Work." The campaign raised awareness on essential labor rights such as Christmas bonuses, protected adolescent work, and occupational safety and health measures to prevent COVID-19 infections in the workplace.
In addition, between 2018 and 2019, the project implemented non-formal educational services known as Espacios para Crecer (EpCs), a methodology that provided alternative education opportunities to 129 children from the Indigenous community of Cayin ô Clim. These services supplied children with safe spaces to productively occupy their free time outside of school hours and served to reinforce school material in a fun and dynamic manner, therefore reducing their susceptibility to child labor.
Riquelme is one of the children who attended the EpCs daily for two years.
"There they helped me with my homework. I learned to draw, dance, sing, to practice reading, and to write much better in Spanish," Riquelme said. "I was also able to learn about Nivaclé art and the value of our culture.”Riquelme, participant of the EpCs offered by Paraguay Okakuaa.
In the EpCs, Riquelme found his passion, and it is already clear to him that his future lies in the classrooms, teaching the children of his community.
"I want to be a teacher who teaches his students with love and joy," Riquelme said.
To support the institutional commitment to eradicate child and forced labor, Paraguay Okakuaa provided technical assistance for the development of the Departmental Plan for Children and Adolescents of the local municipalities in the Department of Boquerón.Macarena Jiménez Granda, Paraguay Okakuaa´s Project Director, during the closing ceremony of the project in Boquerón.
During her speech at the closing event, Jiménez shared, “On behalf of the project, I can only thank each one of you for making the results and progress of the project a reality. Because none of this would have been possible without the institutional actors with whom we work, as well as the residents of the communities we come to, who have opened their doors to us with commitment, dedication, and the desire to generate positive changes in this country that we love so much.”
Bakery supplies and kitchen utensils were delivered along with the certificates of course completion.
Over three years of implementation in the Department of Boquerón, Paraguay Okakuaa has been instrumental in strengthening local institutions which, from now on, will continue several of the efforts initiated by the project. Through an agreement with the Ministry of Children and Adolescents of Paraguay, the EpCs will become part of the services offered through its Abrazo Program.
Additionally, the MTESS will continue awareness-raising efforts and dissemination of labor rights. The targeted municipalities and the local government institutions have committed to continue supporting the women who were trained by the project and have started their own productive ventures.