This is what leadership looks like: Meet Cecilia Moyoviri Moye, an indigenous woman Senator in Bolivia’s Legislative Assembly

After the November 2020 national elections, women make up 49 per cent of the Legislative Assembly of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, cementing its position as a forerunner on gender parity in politics. The participation of indigenous women and stopping violence against women in political and public life are among the top priorities for the country.

Date: Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cecilia Moyoviri Moye, the first indigenous Senator from the Department of Beni. Photo courtesy of Cecilia Moyoviri Moye
Cecilia Moyoviri Moye, the first indigenous Senator from the Department of Beni. Photo courtesy of Cecilia Moyoviri Moye

“Being a woman and indigenous is not easy at all, but it is my greatest pride,” says Cecilia Moyoviri Moye, the first indigenous Senator from the Department of Beni.

Fast facts

  • Globally, indigenous women ­– along with women migrants, ethnic minorities, women in rural areas and women with disabilities – continue to face discrimination and exclusion from public life. Gender equality and good governance cannot be achieved unless public life and decision-making includes women and girls in all their diversity.
  • Violence against women in political and public life stops women from accessing power and silences their voices in decision-making. Women politicians, rights defenders, leaders of women’s organizations and feminist groups are targeted online and offline. Women of colour experience violence at disproportionate levels.
  • More needs to be done to ensure all public institutions apply zero tolerance for violence, discrimination and abuse. Urgent action is needed to reform legislation to ensure perpetrators are held accountable and to strengthen access to justice and services for victims.

For more data on women’s leadership, see the UN Secretary-General’s Report

At 50 years of age, after a lifetime of struggles, she became the first indigenous elected Senator from her region, Beni in 2020.

Her political history is marked by the constant defense of indigenous lands and peoples. In 2017, Cecilia Moyoviri Moye was Vice-President of the Isiboro Sécure National Park Indigenous Territory (Tipnis) Subcentral – which represents the area’s indigenous communities.

Now that she is a Senator, she says she will focus on defending the rights of indigenous women and protecting the territory she represents. She currently serves as the President of the Committee on Land and Territory, Natural Resources and Environment of the Senate.

Her enthusiasm is accompanied by constant concern. She says that indigenous people’s rights have always been violated, and indigenous women have faced the brunt of it all. 

“Being a representative of an indigenous people has many challenges, but it is an opportunity to give a voice to those women who have proposals.”

Making room for indigenous women’s leadership

Moyoviri admits there is a long way to go, but the fight to achieve equality is necessary to ensure that more women are in decision-making roles that were traditionally reserved for men.

“As a woman, I want more women to have a voice because our presence is essential; our experiences are essential; and they must be considered to change the course of our country.”

Besides Moyoviri, several other indigenous women were nominated as candidates for the Assembly by their own indigenous peoples for the 2020 national elections. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Bolivia modified the rules for the registration of candidates, allowing indigenous peoples to nominate their own candidacies without the involvement of political parties for the first time and to have the opportunity to be elected under their own territorial customs. The nomination of indigenous people means an opportunity for indigenous peoples to vote and have a representative of their own people.

As a result, four indigenous women now serve in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly as representatives of the special peasant indigenous electoral districts (among the seven designated seats reserved for indigenous peoples).

But many indigenous women, candidates or elected, have suffered violence throughout their political careers. Violence against women is considered one of the great barriers to effectively accessing politics.

Confronting violence against women in politics

UN Women provided technical and financial assistance to partners on the ground directly contributing to the passage of the Bolivia's law against harassment and political violence against women (Law 243) in 2012, the first of its kind in the world. It establishes prison sentences of two to eight years for different types of violence. However, to date there has only been one successful sentencing for harassment and political violence.

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“Being a representative of an indigenous people has many challenges, but it is an opportunity to give a voice to those women who have proposals”


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To ensure that this powerful new law can be effective, UN Women has supported several actions by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), including the establishment of the Tribunal’s Observatory on Parity Democracy for ongoing data collection, knowledge generation and public dissemination of information on the political rights of women, and existing electoral regulations and protocols to monitor and sanction harassment and other forms of violence against women in politics.

UN Women also supported the Electoral Tribunal to convene a year-long consultative process with a wide range of national stakeholders to draft the Political Organisations Law enacted in August 2018.

Under the new law, all political parties must ensure gender equality and parity within their own organisations, as well as prevent and mitigate violence against women.

Other actions backed by UN Women included training for electoral authorities at central and departmental levels on the procedures for processing such offenses, and coordination of multiple dialogues for aspiring leaders and candidates, where their demands, needs and proposals were heard and assessed, and made publicly available, including those of indigenous women leaders.

In addition, the TSE has prioritized monitoring cases of harassment and political violence, providing accompaniment, support, and advice so that sanctions in these cases are enforced.

Toribia Lero Quispe, who was elected as a representative of the Lower House in November. Photo courtesy of Toribia Lero Quispe
Toribia Lero Quispe, who was elected as a representative of the Lower House in November. Photo courtesy of Toribia Lero Quispe

“Our challenge is to generate spaces for dialogue that allow us to reflect on and question acts of violence against women,” says indigenous woman leader Toribia Lero Quispe, who was elected as a representative of the Lower House in November. Originally from the Tapacari Cóndor Apacheta ayllu, in Cochabamba, she is a long-time activist for indigenous peoples who has faced violence and intimidation. “This will undoubtedly be a long and complex process, but it is not impossible, and we must contribute to the construction of a society with equal conditions for everyone.”

For more stories like this, visit our In Focus: UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65)