The Power of Identification – Margarita Flores

In 2007 Lutheran World Relief partnered with Fundación Tierra (The Land Foundation) to help nearly 30,000 rural Bolivians officially register with the state, allowing them to gain access to better health services, obtain jobs and secure land to farm. Here’s one woman’s story:

Margarita Flores lives in the small town of Potrero. She and her husband work the land to grow enough food to eat. They don’t have much more than that. They don’t own their land, so have no collateral for loans and have no steady income. Margarita has a shy smile and four children. Each time she was pregnant she needed a little extra food and, “needed to go to the doctor with some frequency for standard check- ups,” she explained to me.

The Bolivian government has an important program in place that provides pregnant mothers with some cash when they make their medical appointments. The money can then be used for medicine, food, or transportation to get to and from appointments. But because Margarita had no birth certificate — and therefor no I.D. — she was unable to access this program and needlessly suffered during her pregnancies.  “We just couldn’t make it to [the state capital] Sucre to get the documents she needed,” Margarita’s husband said. “It was too far and too expensive.”

LWR worked with Fundación Tierra to tear down the immediate cost barrier to documentation by covering much of the payment for new documents. But LWR and Fundación Tierra also made some investments that would last long after the project ended, such as advocating for decentralized services — bringing the documentation services out of state capitals and closer to the homes of rural citizens. This reduces the cost and time of travel for rural citizens seeking documents.

A couple in Zudáñez, Bolivia, sitting outside the Civil Registry

LWR also worked with employees at the Civil Registries (where documents are issued and identify vital statics recorded) to improve their interaction with non-Spanish-speaking communities. This included training on respectful engagement as well as learning some key words in local languages. These changes were combined with a “documentation campaign” that included radio ads, fliers and training of local leaders to spread the word and encourage people to apply for documents. The response was overwhelming.

The documentation project has brought almost 30,000 rural Bolivians into legal standing. For Margarita, having identification can mean healthier pregnancies and healthier children. And this would mean the world to her.

In Bolivia, with your support and the work of strong partners like Fundación Tierra, thousands of women and now have IDs in hand and a better chance to make critical investments in their future.