Bolivian activist to receive Methodist peace award
11/10/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
A photograph is available with this report.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
World Methodist Council logo, Photo number W03086, Accompanies UMNS #542
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A 37-year-old Bolivian household worker-turned-activist is the recipient of the World Methodist Peace Award.
Rodriguez Romero will be recognized in a Nov. 20 ceremony at La Reforma
Methodist Church in La Paz, Bolivia. His Eminence Sunday Mbang,
chairperson of the World Methodist Council, will present the award,
which is given annually by the council to an individual or group that
has made significant contributions to peace and reconciliation.
Carlos Intipampa, Methodist Church of Bolivia, nominated Rodriguez for
her efforts for peace, reconciliation and justice in the face of
centuries of oppression.
Born into a poor Quechua family near
Cochabamba, Rodriguez began the hard life of a household worker when she
was just 13. "That was a very negative experience," she told Wilson
Boots, a United Methodist Board of Global Ministries missionary, in an
interview last July. "I had to serve more than 15 people, and I was in
charge of so many things."
When Rodriguez was still a teenager,
she formed a support group with fellow workers, and they began
organizing to seek legal rights for themselves and other workers. In
1986, she was elected to head conflict resolution at the national
Household Workers Congress, and a decade later she became chief
executive of the congress.
The experience of household workers
had always been tied to the treatment they received from employers. "In
my case, many wounds were left due to exploitation and discrimination
towards household workers," she said. "The lack of courage to fight back
and not be able to speak up was so frequent that I started thinking
that all this was normal."
Moving to La Paz, she continued to
work part-time in households while advocating for human rights. A major
victory occurred in 2000, when Bolivia's Senate passed legislation
supporting rights of just salary compensation and legal rights for
household workers. Churches and human rights groups joined the intensive
campaign for that legislation, which culminated in her public
presentation of 15,000 signatures in support of some 114,000 household
After the lower House of the Bolivian Congress passed
the legislation, the law for salaried household workers became effective
"We finally have rights protected by the law, and
that gives my fellow workers the courage to struggle for the dignity
that we didn't have before," said Rodriguez, who also was elected chief
executive of the Confederation of Household Workers of Latin America and
the Caribbean in 2001. "Now they are proud of what they do for a
Throughout her fight for justice, Rodriguez, a
practicing Methodist, said she has often turned to God for guidance.
"One of the things I have enjoyed about my national leadership
responsibilities in Bolivia has been the opportunity to travel
throughout the country and work with fellow household workers," she told
"Many sisters have prayed for me and given me their moral
support, which has been such a spiritual support for me. I believe that
the Lord has given me a mission to continue working on behalf of the
household workers who are so marginalized and mistreated by society."
how her faith has sustained and guided her, the Rev. George Freeman,
chief executive of the World Methodist Council, called her commitment to
peace and justice "a model for all of us."
Past recipients of
the award have included President Boris Trajkovsky of Macedonia; Nelson
Mandela, former president of South Africa; Kofi Annan, Secretary General
of the United Nations, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in
Argentina; and the Community of St. Egidio in Rome.
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*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.