Catherine Williams

COUNTRY: Peru and Bolivia
FOCUS: Community and Economic Development with Aymara Women

Cati is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but came to MKLM in 1989 from Altadena, California. There she was active in St. Philips parish in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Cati graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and received her teaching credential from CSULA. Cati’s first experience in Latin America dates to her childhood.

Upon joining MKLM she spent her first eight years in Peru working with women. Building upon that experience she lived in Bolivia since 1997 until 2009.

Cati lived and worked in El Alto, Bolivia. El Alto one of the most impoverished major city in the most impoverished country in South America. Cati’s primary ministry in El Alto was with two women’s indigenous groups called the Kullakas (“Sisters” in the Aymaran language) and the Yapuchiri. The adult indigenous women arriving from the countryside more often than not were never given the opportunity of a good education. As Aymara they face discrimination from the larger society; as women they encounter discrimination within their own culture. A lot of Cati’s work was accompanying Aymara women leaders, supporting, encouraging, giving them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have, sharing information, and learning together, so that the mutual “encounter with the other” was a growing experience for both, and so they become one in the struggle for the same future.

The Kullakas and Yapuchiri recognized women’s marginalization and discrimination and responded with activities to foster an atmosphere of solidarity, or mutual caring. Specifically they provided opportunities for personal enrichment as well as technical training to generate income. Technical training focused on quality knitting for export at a better wage. Cati played a strong organizational role supporting the leadership of the Aymaran women. She also provided computer and accounting skills. In addition she helped the Kullakas and Yapuchiri to make contact with other Latin American groups doing similar work.