During "Cochabamba's Day" in 2013, RSMH Roslagen's cooperation organization DECOPSO in Bolivia received an award from President Evo Morales. The award was shared by a number of important institutions and actors who have contributed to promoting development in society by creating jobs.
The fact that DECOPSO's social work cooperative received the award was motivated by the fact that the organization successfully contributes to creating work for people with disabilities. Evo Morales also took the opportunity to express himself in positive terms about social work cooperatives.
In 2013, Bolivia adopted a new disability law and a new cooperative law. As a result of DECOPSO's advocacy work, both laws mention social work cooperatives as a way to create work for people with disabilities.
The road here
I remember a few years ago when we invited RSMH and some representatives to a members' meeting to talk about their project. Then RSMH showed, among other things, a film about the first cooperative that had started. In the film, several people told about what the cooperative meant in their lives.
A young man said, among other things, that he had always been very quiet in the past and had had difficulty leaving home. After becoming active in the cooperative, he had been elected to DECOPSO's board. He expressed his happiness that he now dared to hang out with other people, talk and that for the first time he felt that he had valuable things to contribute.
An advocacy work that has finally yielded results
Marta Fuentes described the situation and the process of change in Bolivia, from the 1980s until today. How the unions were gradually strengthened and how Evo Morales received such strong support from the people during the 2005 election campaign that he was elected president. He thus became the first president of Bolivia from the country's indigenous people.
According to Marta Fuentes, this government has a completely different attitude towards people with disabilities than has previously been experienced in Bolivia. Decision-makers have shown interest in understanding what the needs are and what needs to be done.
- Now they are the ones who come to us, said Emma Torres. The change of government, together with many years of persistent advocacy work, has finally begun to yield results. The new constitution includes several articles on people with disabilities and politicians have finally turned their backs on our proposals.
She also said that many of those who were active in the cooperative had previously lived very isolated lives where they lacked both language and social skills. And not least self-esteem and self-confidence.
The exchange of experience with Sweden has been crucial
She also expressed her joy at the collaboration with RSMH Roslagen.
- It has really taught us a lot. Not least about advocacy work and how we can work together with authorities and decision-makers, said Emma Torres. What is so good is that it really feels like a collaboration where it is about giving and taking and learning from each other. I think it's quite unusual, but nonetheless significant, she said.