Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America, with nearly 30 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day. In May 2005 a new law imposing increased taxes on foreign companies investing in Bolivia's gas reserves sparked mass protests across the country.
Indigenous and peasant groups assert that the law did not go far enough to prevent the exploitation of Bolivia's natural resources by foreign companies. In 2005, tens of thousands of protesters descended on the capital, La Paz, calling for the nationalization of Bolivia's rich natural gas resources, and demanding constitutional reforms that would give greater rights and political power to Bolivia's impoverished indigenous population, who represent the majority. This movement led to the election of President Evo Morales and the nationalization of several refineries in 2006. Leonida Zurita Vargas, an indigenous activist and president of the Coordinating Committee of Peasant Women of the Tropics of Cochabamba participated in the protests, seeking improved conditions for indigenous women and their families living in the Chapare region of Bolivia.
This region, inhabited primarily by indigenous Quechua people, has been adversely affected by militarization imposed by the "war on drugs," which propagates violence in the community, including violence against women.
The group's goal is to "augment our existing knowledge on the critical problems that face the country so that we can be more effective in political involvement to change laws and other conditions."
Through leadership seminars and educational projects, the group promotes the empowerment and political participation of women, and has initiated a dressmaking income-generation program for local women.