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VOF Month 2- First Draft: Girl Mothers and their Struggle

In 1981 in La Paz Bolivia, a coup d’etat by the military took place and all universities were closed; I was 16 years old, and would turn 17 by the end of the year. A year ago I had received my high school diploma with honors, while going to school from 7:30 am to 13:30 and teaching English at the local Bi-national Center from 15:00 to 21:00. I never got tired. Not once. Being at work I met a man a lot older than me. He was 23, and to me, he was an old man. At first I thought it was kind of fun to have him around all the time, until it became obvious that he wanted to be my boyfriend. I have had two ‘boyfriends’ by that time, but we had not even kissed!

So, as it turns out, he was the experienced one and I was too naive to realize how dangerous it was to be with him. By April 81, we had been going out for six months already and I felt so annoyed by his omnipresence that I asked my mother if she could get me a College outside the country that I could attend. She said no. She would rather have me suffer from his suffocation than have me away from her. ‘I might end up having to marry him’, I warned with a shy voice, ‘No you won’t, I asked him not to marry you and he accepted, don’t worry’, she said. By December, I was married to him and pregnant. My mother was so angry at me that she did not come to the wedding, and stopped talking to me for four years. He had tricked me into marrying him by saying that if I didn’t wed him he would commit suicide. Today, if I would be threatened by anyone telling me that, I would laugh so loud that it would be impossible to stop me, and I would surely leave. But at that time, I was only 16 and very impressed by his wording.

By the time my first son was born, I was 17. I did not know I was pregnant until two months after the wedding. My mother in law, a wicked old woman, had told my husband to put strict curfew hours and not let me study, because ‘the devil does not sleep’, and he did that: he became a prison guard and I was not allowed to study, and he did let me work a bit but my pregnancy did not let me do very much. In the fourth month of pregnancy, I got a strange disease that the woman doctor never explained to me. She just ordered some exams and said it was urgent for me to take a strong medication. I followed her orders. Seven months later we had two men who got into the house to rob and one of my brothers in law was drunk and shot one of the intruders, I tried to defend all of us and took a piece of iron to hit the other one. His wife ended up wounded and I ended up in the emergency room, and gave birth before time. The woman doctor shouted at me a lot, treated me badly, but I didn’t know what to do. Nobody ever took a stand to defend me. For everyone, I was guilty of everything that was happening to me and deserved all the punishment. The doctor used forceps to get my son out and I almost bled to death. I was alive by miracle.

My husband had left his job to ‘watch’ over me. He did not have a profession. We were living on what his parents could provide for us, and I did not want more children. My husband raped me and got me pregnant again when my first son was only 10 months old. My second son was born seven months later, and the same woman doctor made my life even more bitter during this second pregnancy with her yelling and her ordering. I had no one in my family that I could talk to and I was ashamed of my marriage so I did not contact my former friends. I was left alone in the world and at the seventh month of my pregnancy, when my son threatened to be born, I had a broken fountain and a bad result of an ultrasound said that my son weighed only 700 grams, too small to take the appropriate medicine, so they did not give him the corticoids. This time, the woman doctor induced me to labor, and my second son was born on February 23rd, 1984, weighing 2500 grams, but he had not been properly medicated and he passed away after four days of struggle with his under developed lungs. The ultrasound doctor never appeared again, not even to get paid.

My son gave me a look that I will never forget. He was a cute angel, with curly hair and beautiful skin. He did not deserve to die. I went crazy. I could not hear a baby cry, because I would start weeping and could not stop. I blamed it all on my husband. My mother did not talk to me, so she did not come to see me. My aunts came over to visit and left without doing anything for me. My mother let me know through my grandmother that I could use a grave that she owned in the cemetery to bury my child. And I buried a part of me in that little white coffin. I needed help of course, but I was too overwhelmed by my situation to be able to ask for anything, besides, all were mad at me and would not help. I did the only thing I could think of to heal: got pregnant again two months later. On December 26th, 1984, my third son was born. He had only been in my womb for seven and a half months, but he was ready to come out that morning, so I felt the first contraction at 7:30 a.m. and the new doctor (I got rid of the woman doctor, finally), was on his holiday leave so when he arrived at the hospital at 8:20 I was being stung by the nurse with a needle while I was shouting ‘my son is coming out, help, help!’ It was hilarious. At 8:40, my son was being born, surprising everyone, doctors, nurses, and myself, because I honestly have to admit… that I did not feel any pain at all.

Half hour later, I had my son in my arms and the future was bright again. I wasn’t even tired. It was really easy. I got up and left the building on my own the next morning. One of my aunts came to visit and was very surprised to see me so well. God was with us, and he took care of us all. My two kids and I were ready for the fight. From there on, I never again complained about anything. I knew miracles occurred.

The economy of Bolivia at the time was a disaster. In 1982 a democratic left party government had taken office and its wrong steps in economic issues resulted in an inflation rate of 10,000%. No, it is not a mistake, it was 10,000%!. Next time I will tell you about my struggle in the hyperinflation times. Right now I want to focus on how desperately alone I was since I was 16 until I reached 22.

A brief research of recent numbers shows that although the story I told you took place 24 years ago, today things have not changed very much for young girls who get pregnant early. Teenagers are in danger of getting pregnant at younger stages around Bolivia. Rape victims have doubled in number in the last two years. Fifty percent of the crimes reported to police officers involve offenses against women and children, either as a part of a bigger crime or as a target in themselves, as well as other crimes like home violence, abandonment of pregnant women, and abandonment of children. To add to this picture, experts state that for every denounced abuse, there are seven that go unnoticed.

People in Tarija are traditionally peaceful. Twenty years ago people were used to leaving their homes unlocked and children would go to schools walking by themselves. Not anymore. As the number of inhabitants has more than doubled in this period of time to 300,000, violent crimes and pregnancies have increased also. Most migrant families come to Tarija, the capital city of the department of Tarija (one of the nine departments of Bolivia), or its intermediate city of Yacuiba (located in the border of Bolivia and Argentina), or Villa Montes, a smaller city near the border of Bolivia and Paraguay. They usually engage in hand labor or commerce. The biggest source of income for Tarija is the exportation of natural gas to Argentina and Brazil, but this industry is not intensive in labor. Half of the migrating families break up and fifty percent of girls coming from broken families are in danger of becoming pregnant and or commit suicide. According to the National Institute of Statistics, 54% of women under 20 who become mothers live in extreme poverty with less than two dollars a day, and 24% live in poverty, with less than six dollars a day. This means that the younger women get pregnant, the poorer they will become.

In the particular case of Tarija, 450 new families arrive every year from other locations with higher poverty rates. When they arrive they usually live in the peripheral areas, invading green spots or occupying risk areas, which allows for poverty spots to surround them, low quality housing, high discomfort, and lots of residents in each household. These families survive, in most cases, by being underemployed, or from municipal assistance resources, and many of them are supported by women or close ones (mothers or grandmothers), most of them having low educational levels, which stops them from getting more specialized jobs. In these communities, the way women are treated is unequal and discriminatory, they live under constant risk with remote possibilities of economical or social promotion, with very low self esteem, they become rioters, very susceptible to the seductive promises of easy profit with drug traffic, illegal sales of alcohol to teens and alcoholics, or robbery and burglary. The consequences of this reality are shown by the Vice Ministry of Social Development and the Office for the Defense of Children and Teens referred to the last months of 2008, who have stated that more than 1000 offenses to girls and boys, teens and women’s rights have been denounced in Bolivia. This number has tripled the denounces from last year, so they reveal the enormous family degradation and the wear out of the social fabric that is present in the city, with a high number of child – teen sexual abuse, offenses made by adolescents, abuse, school leaves, alcohol abuse and drug addiction among others

In this context, girls with migrating parents are in greater risk than girls with parents originally from Tarija. But, what are the real numbers? How many teens are helped by their parents and family and how many are not? How hard is it for young girls to get the right medical attention? Are they being discriminated, mistreated or left out by their nearest social circles? Are their babies well off or have they any kind of disabilities and of what kind? How many years does it take them to leave poverty if they ever do? These questions remain unanswered yet, as there is no institution specifically studying these facts. Different institutions have partial information and they use it also with partial results. Information is the key to facing these problems successfully. This is one of the reasons why I have created the Gender Equality Training and Studies Center (GETS Center) - Centro de Estudios y Capacitación en Equidad de Género CECEG – which intends to be part of the solution for women and girls who suffer from discrimination, exclusion, rape, violence and ignorance. The Center works in three ways: by training women to be gender equality technicians thus creating new jobs for women in risk, by studying gender issues scientifically, so that appropriate numbers will help projects to be more successful gender wise, and by training the society itself through seminars and widespread social marketing campaigns focusing gender equality as a very important means to become a non violent society.


Wow, Wow, Wow, I am so happy you have surrived to now thrive and be able to help others, I love your story, and your courage. I opened a Women's Resource Center for Training and Development in Ethiopia and know that it serves as a center of hope for many young women, who are seeking to find their own voice and recapture their soul. I am so proud that you have triumphed to become a leader among your people, keep on keeping on and bringing others on board to become great leaders!!!!

jap21's picture

Thanks Dr Edonna

I am glad you liked my writing. If I ever can be of help to you or your center, please let me know.

I am on the way to make leaders out of girls, I don't mind if it is not easy, I will do it anyway.


Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

mamaAfrica's picture

Great Piece

Dear Jackie

Your account is well done. thank you. I thought of this small sentence change

"A brief research of recent numbers shows that although the story I told you took place 24 years ago, today things have not changed very much for young girls who get pregnant early"

Should you may be say Although the events of my life took place 24 years ago, research of recents times show that ...... ( i think by this it will be clear that the two events are related in nature but are delinked by time and space. The earlier shows they are linked by time and space and therefore the relation.) Hope it makes sense

My organization Project Africa is hosting 20 teenage mothers in our sistar camp this August from 11-14th. I will share your story with the facilitators and participants before hand. I am sure they will relate to it and learn. or it may break the ice on issues that at times people fear talking about


jap21's picture

Thank you Mama Africa

I am honored to think that you will be sharing my story. It took a lot from me to write it. When memories come back (I can feel you know what I am talking about), it is as if I were living these things again, so it is not easy.

I will change the sentence, it is a good addition.

Thanks again and please let me know if I can be of any further help to the girls in the camp.



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Victoria Vorosciuc's picture

In love!

My dear friend,
I am in love with what you write...
First part of your story was like a book...
I really want to read one day a book on it...

But at the same time ... I felt the pain you went through, even I did not give birth.
But to be honest, I was in the same situation, when my ex boyfriend was saying that if I won't date him he will commit suicide... Then, after 9 months of me already getting more attached to him, he was the one to leave me without explanation. I still try to get rid of this memory, but your story made me feel better... I mean you are a hero to me...
An your children, they are happy to be having such a model...
I am not sure if I read it, but very interested - what happened to your husband after, are you still together, did his attitude change with time, what about your children, what they think of the father... Also your mother, how was it - getting back to communicate after 4 years?

Also, to be honest, I read everything until "From there on, I never again complained about anything. I knew miracles occurred." The next all passage - was not so much of big interess. But I know that is the requirement of assignement... So - no blame on you!

Reason 1: No time, or maybe it is statistics, or maybe there is not a soft connection between the 2 parts.

But, if you continued to write what you started - really in love, i would spend even my busy time reading it...

Really impressed, and inspired! You are brave to have posted it first.. .I was confused what to write about in my case...

You rescued me!!!

Wish health to all your children and againg, I can't yet express what I feel after reading your post through writting - but it touched me!!!

Good job!

Yours, Victoria

Victoria Vorosciuc
Project Coordinator
"Empowering women to participate
in community life"
WorldPulse Media Corresspondent

jap21's picture

Thank you Victoria

I am really glad I rescued somebody!! That is the final purpose of all this work. It is not an easy task to bring the past into the present. I never thought it was worth it. But now, knowing I helped one person, I think it is worth it.

You are right, I should encounter a way to relate the first part to the second, so that the transition is smoother.

My mother and I are very good friends now, and we have been ever since I started to study in college, when I was 22. About my husband, I divorced him when I was 23 -24 and he did some nasty things after that, so I don't even talk to him. You are right, I have so much material that I should write a book. I will do it, even if it is a small book to begin with. Let us see if I can find someone to edit it and publish it, hahaha.

Thanks from the heart darling.



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Juicy intro!

Jackie, i love your inro! it was like i was reading a wonderful novel. It has a compelling way of drawing readers into your story.

i just started reading and so i will drop my suggestions if the need be soon.
Good luck and all the best!

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Greight Foundation

jap21's picture

Hi Gifty

I think I really need to draw people into reading the second part as well!!

Waiting for your comments,



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

janet kabugua's picture

a woman with a difference

i know hav ebeen quie for a time now. am attending several seminars on HIV, ABORTION, TEENAGE PREGNANCY, FAMILY PLANNING AND TB.this will enable me to be able to reach several girls and other women back in the village and create a difference in their lives but am stil around.

commenting on my sister's story i must say that this is one brave woman and this great woman reminds me that am not the only one who was rejected by family because of being pregnant at an early age but there are several others who have walked even tougher paths than me.

its good to share it encourages and builds one to become a strong person who will not only bring change in the society but bring comfort in other people's lives.

sister jackie you have done a great work it is inspiring, encouraging and building one's confidence. i love your article very much.

keep it dear

jap21's picture

Thank you Janet

I will finish it up in two days, and will get back to you so that you can read the final work, ok?



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Khushbu's picture

I love your post

Hi Jackie....It is so inspiring to read your always. You are so brave to write this story here....I love you for every word you have written here.

Keep spreading you positive energy..

Lots of love

Khushbu Agrawal

jap21's picture

Thank you Khushbu

I am humbled by your comment. I never thought my life was worth telling. But now I am starting to change my mind, as it seems like people actually do appreciate knowing about this. As I told Victoria, I will begin looking for an editor who gets interested in helping me write the story. I know the universe will provide for it if it is meant to be.

Lots of love to you too.


Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

misscarly's picture

Dear Jacqueline, You did a

Dear Jacqueline,

You did a wonderful job expressing yourself in the Frontline article. I found myself so engrossed in reading about your experience that I slipped out a my 'editor mindset'. A great sign! You express your personal experience, pain and strength very strongly and then have a great transition from the personal to the current context.

A few remarks:
- In the second paragraph you write 'I was married to him and pregnant.' I would delete 'and pregnant.' The reader begins to wonder if you were pregnant before the marriage, and perhaps that is the reason for getting married. You answer all these questions in the following paragraph, but the reader has already started thinking two steps ahead.
- You should delete the two sentences that begin 'Next time I will tell you about...' this distracts the reader from the flow of the article and isn't necessary.
- After you relate your personal experience, you give the current context. This part is very important, but needs a bit more life to keep the reader engaged. Adding more personal insight and analysis would make this section even stronger.
- At the conclusion, the reader is left with some further questions. You should tie up these loose ends (answer the remaining questions). Perhaps if you scatter these throughout the second half of the article it would help it out. Some of the questions that came to my mind: How did you renew your relationship with your mother? What happened to your relationship with your husband? Where is it now? How did you gain more freedom from being 'watched' to being able to start GETS? Did everything become better simply because of the birth of your third child or what actions and decisions did you have to make to get to where you are today? How did you move from being a victim to being an educator? Link your experience of learning and pulling yourself out of your experience to becoming actively involved in improving the situation for women in Bolivia.

I hope this feedback is useful. If you have any questions or need clarification on any of the comments please let me know! Thank you again for sharing your experience with me and us all. You are an inspiration!

kind regards,

jap21's picture

Thank you Carly

Dear Carly:

Of course I will take into account each of your suggestions to rewrite it. This piece is meant to be improved, so let us do that together. I wonder if I will be able to fit all these changes in 2000 words, I will do my best to fit that limit though. I will contact you with some questions later today.



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Jennifer Ruwart's picture


I think I speak for everyone when i say that we would rather you go over, so you can fully explore your voice, than cut it off for a word count. Should your frontline journal be selected, Corine will edit it down to the proper count. Now, don't go crazy and add an additional thousand words, but a few hundred extra will be okay!

I loved your story. I can see that is already bringing inspiration and connection to so many of us. Great job.

Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

olutosin's picture



This is a job well done dear, love you and your courage.

Well done

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


jap21's picture

Thank you dear Hugs to

Thank you dear

Hugs to you,


Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

ThePressInstitute's picture

A great beginning.

You are off to a great start with this piece. It is strong, moving and well-written.

Here are just a few notes:
I suggest using information from your last 2 paragraphs throughout the piece. And it will be necessary to source where you get your statistics from.

For example, after you share your story in the introduction that would be a good place to include the statistic "According to the National Institute of Statistics, 54% of women under 20 who become mothers live in extreme poverty with less than two dollars a day, and 24% live in poverty, with less than six dollars a day. This means that the younger women get pregnant, the poorer they will become." That puts your situation in context and allows the reader to begin to digest the larger reality.

Also, do you have any abuse/domestic violence statistics from Bolivia that you could include?

In all, I think you have created a brave and stunning piece!


jap21's picture

Thank you Cristi

I will follow your suggestions. Let us make it better.

I will be posting the final soon.



Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Tina's picture

Honest and Open

Dearest Jackie,
This is such an honest and open piece. It was wonderful to be able to get such a glimpse into your life and experiences. Great writing too.

jap21's picture

Thank you Tina

I am glad you liked it.


Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America


Valiente Jackie

Querida Jackie, tu historia es un ejemplo de coraje y superación. Es también la fuerza del amor, no hay nada imposible para una mujer con un hijo, superará las dificultades y enseñará el perdón. Tu labor en el Centro de Estudios y Capacitación en equidad de Género es un valioso aporte en ese camino. Me gustaría tener la página web para conocer un poco más al respecto.

¡Gracias por tu valioso aporte!

Luz Marina

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