Help Disabled Bolivian Activists Cross Andes in Wheelchairs

#MEAction, in collaboration with the Association of People with Disability (APD) in Bolivia, have launched a campaign to raise funds for the brave individuals that are risking their lives to demand equality from their government.

Our goal: raise $10,000 by Saturday, March 19th


La Paz, or “Peace” in English, is the Bolivian capital as well as the final destination for the Association of People with Disability (APD) as they hike 235 miles, by wheelchair, through the Andes Mountains to demand equality and a pension that is substantial enough to survive on.
La Paz, or “Peace” in English, is the Bolivian capital as well as the final destination for the Association of People with Disability (APD) as they hike 235 miles, by wheelchair, through the Andes Mountains to demand equality and a pension that is substantial enough to survive on.

It all started 50 days ago at the main square in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. A large network of disabled citizens, connected through the group, Kanata Association of People with Disabilities or AKIPERDIS, met and began protesting the unequal treatment of disabled persons by the Bolivian government. The group began gaining momentum with a creative and powerful protest on February 9th, 2016. Disabled individuals, desperate but determined, suspended themselves in wheelchairs from a bridge arching over a major highway in Cochabamba.

“The first time we hung ourselves from the bridge was back in 2009, when we were asking for the redistribution of the budget that the government set aside for us. We wanted those resources to be redistributed to us as monthly pensions. At the moment, millions of dollars have been allocated for projects in the city, but we haven’t seen any, besides hundreds of us live in the rural areas. We have not seen a single project so far.”
Protester from the group, AKIPERDIS, in Bolivia

With cars passing below, the group began chanting and singing to get the attention of the Bolivian government:

“We have no fear, we are fighting for our right to go ahead!”
“Don’t say you can’t, not even as a joke!”
“Until the victory of disabled people!”
“We want a monthly pension!”

A monthly pension- that’s what this group is calling for.

A little research will show that Bolivia has signed international social security agreements and promised individuals with “at least 50% disability,” a monthly pension. The agreement states that these individuals are to receive whatever their “percentage of disability” is, multiplied by their average annual wage for the 5 years before their disability went into effect. The floor of this agreement is supposed to be the minimum monthly wage in Bolivia of 815 bolivianos (or $119 USD).

What you won’t find in the international agreements is what the protesters themselves say. Things like how, in reality, those who qualify for this disability pension are actually only receiving about 75 Boliviano ($11 USD) per month instead of the promised 50% of minimum wage. Or how the imposed minimum of 50% disability cuts out a lot of people that are still in desperate need of assistance. Or how the process for registering for disability is so convoluted and corrupt that even for those who have been able to dedicate the tremendous amount of time needed to research, paperwork, and waiting for approval, the money often doesn’t arrive.

A young girl with Brittle Bone Disease doesn't qualify for disability pension in Bolivia because she is only rated at 37% disability.
A young girl with Brittle Bone Disease doesn’t qualify for a monthly pension in Bolivia because she is only rated at 37% disability.

In the 50 days following the initial protest, the group has faced violent police repression, extreme fatigue forcing many of them back to their homes, and an overall surge in determination.

What is the group chanting now?

“A group can beat mountains!”

After repeating the bridge suspension protest multiple times and garnering a national audience, the group has decided to take their efforts to the next level by literally risking their lives on a 235 mile journey, by wheelchair, through the Andes mountains to the Bolivian capital, La Paz. The journey will take roughly 30 days, and is a journey that most of these people would have trouble managing by car, let alone wheelchair. The group will continue to camp in tents along the roadways as they have for the past 50 days. The difference now is the distance they’ll be covering as well as the elevation change they’ll experience of 5,000 feet (1500m).
They are calling on their government to give $70/month (478 Bolivianos) to those individuals suffering from different impairments including: cerebral palsy, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, blindness, amputation and more.
#MEAction is working with individuals on the ground in Bolivia to raise money and awareness for this incredible journey. Many of the protesters have broken wheelchairs and have no tent or sleeping bag to carry with them. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to supply the activists with food, shelter, and medical support, as well as media attention and other supplies. This assistance is necessary if they are to survive the journey. This movement will have a huge impact on the lives of people suffering from disability in Bolivia and it will fuel a global conversation about justice and equality for people with disabilities.
The button below will guide you to the crowdfunding campaign. We ask that you donate there and share the link with anyone you can. If you know someone with connections to media outlets, send them the information. We will update the campaign regularly with progress reports on the groups long trek. Please continue to check in and help out in any way you can.

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