By Rosie Gold and Karina Krichau
Last Friday we decided to go and visit the women working in the community center in La Boca to discover more about what they do and who they are. The center consists of many different parts including el comedor – a food bank where meals are prepared 6 days a week to feed around 100 people, the workshop where clothes are made to sell onto companies and government organisations and then there are several projects such as apoyo escolar where kids are offered help and support after school and the computer cluster where people can come have basic lessons in IT. We arrived in los pibes to a completely relaxed and friendly atmosphere, everyone seemed happy to see us and more
than happy to answer our questions. We were really keen to get to know how the community center works and delve into some back-stories of the women there (it being national women’s day and all). We were given a little tour of the center then were able to explore the food bank (el comedor) and speak to a nice woman called Elizabeth, who originally is from Salta but now lives in La Boca. She works as a “ama de casa” and has been part of the community center from the beginning. Before, the community center was a motor factory but together with others she helped to clean and organize it and now works in the food bank. Besides the huge amount of work there is to do everyday, she also has 6 children and a husband to take care of. El comedor gets small amounts of money from the UN and the government, to buy food and the food is divided according to how much each person works. That means that the people who work in the kitchen and the textile workshop don’t have a fixed salary but they get 450 pesos from the government to buy the food. They come here to work, and are given meals to take back to their homes and eat with their family.
At the back of the community center is a textile workshop, which was set up as a cooperative by the people who work there. We wanted to talk to some of the women who work here in the textile department, and we met a lovely 60-year-old woman called Margarita. She’s one of the “old ladies” as she’s worked there for 8 years, 12 hours a day. She has 6 grown up children and a bunch of nieces and nephews, she calls herself “cabeza de la familia” because she’s responsible for everyone in her huge family. It was really interesting and humbling to hear these women’s stories and get to know their lives and work. After that we went to see a presentation by Catherine, one of the volunteers from VG, in the housing cooperative. Johan accompanied us, even though it was just a few blocks, as it is a bit dangerous to walk there on your own when you look like “gringas”. The housing cooperative is a project that has been one its way for 4 years now, building flats for 33 families. They hope to finish in one year but it all depends on the government and the prices that keep increasing. Well, here Catherine held her presentation on housing projects, something she has experience with back in Belgium, where she has been working as a social worker and then in the last year done volunteer work with homeless people. She’s here to try and work in one of the recovered factories when her Spanish is up to scratch. On the whole this was a really interesting and pretty humbling experience, the people here are so down to earth and friendly,we met many examples of strong the type of strong, hard working women that are celebrated on Dia de las Mujeres.