Casimira Rodríguez

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2006


This profile was prepared when Casimira Rodríguez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Casimira was one of the 150,000 domestic workers in Bolivia who migrate from their indigenous, rural communities to serve in slave-like conditions in the middle- and upper-class homes of the country’s urban centers. She has seen that neither a Domestic Workers’ Union nor a law can effectively protect the rights of these girls and women because the problems run far deeper than a lack of political representation. Instead, Casimira’s strategy for achieving full citizenship of Bolivia’s domestic workers is directed at three critical processes: Facilitating the creation of a surrogate indigenous community across the Domestic Worker’s Union which can support and empower the women who migrate from rural communities; changing society’s perceptions by working with employers and diverse institutional partners; and attacking the conditions and misinformation which drive the girls and young women to migrate in the first place.
Casimira is directing her attention and energy at the actors that perpetuate the exploitation and discrimination: The workers, the employers, and the workers’ families and communities. She recreates the social support network that many of the domestic workers left behind in their indigenous communities by providing programs and services (e.g., literacy classes, sewing, and cooking to facilitate their work) at times and locations accessible to this excluded population; a necessary space in which the girls and women can regain their dignity and self-esteem, and gain the skills and knowledge to defend their rights. Casimira also sees the need to work with employers to improve working conditions. It is critical that employers, in particular, and society, in general, explicitly recognize their role in denying domestic workers the dignity and respect they deserve as full citizens, in order for existing laws to have any tangible effect. Finally, Casimira has identified a significant part of the problem which many others fail to take into account: The poverty conditions from which the girls and young women migrate, and the lucrative networks that facilitate human trafficking between the rural and urban centers. Families will continue to support their daughters’ migration to the cities as long as they believe that a “better life” is possible as a domestic worker, just as Casmira’s family did over 20 years ago.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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