07 November 2003

Bolivian domestic workers' leader wins 2003 World Methodist Peace Award

The 2003 World Methodist Peace Award recipient is Casimira Rodriguez Romero, a Bolivian Domestic Worker. The Award will be presented on 20 November by His Eminence Sunday Mbang, Chairperson of the World Methodist Council, in a ceremony at La Reforma Methodist Church in La Paz, Bolivia. 

The World Methodist Peace Award is presented annually on behalf of the 39 million believers in the global Methodist/Wesleyan family, to an individual or group that has made significant contributions to peace and reconciliation.

Casimira was born in Mizque, Bolivia, a province near Cochabamba. The only girl in a family which lived in poverty, she became a domestic worker at the age of 13. Subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse, she was treated as a servant, working her first two years without pay. Exploitation and discrimination of domestic workers was common. Casimira describes moments when she felt life was meaningless because she had been locked up in a very small world. 

When Casimira met the Lord her life began to be filled with hope and faith, because she realized God was with the poor, denouncing injustice and healing the sick. She became part of the Emmanuel Methodist Church congregation in Cochabamba which continues to be an important part of her life.

Casimira was invited to join a household workers seamstress and literacy class, and was permitted to attend on Sunday, her day off. This class eventually became the Domestic Household Workers Organization, and Casimira rose to become its leader. Twice she has been elected as the General Secretary of the National Federation of Household Workers.

In 2002 the Bolivian Parliament passed a Household Workers Law, a landmark piece of legislation granting protection from the mistreatment, aggression and near slave conditions of many household domestic workers. The bill was first introduced in 1992 and took ten years to become law. Casimira's work, along with other human rights organizations, resulted in this landmark legislation protecting human rights. 

She was nominated by Bishop Carlos Intipampa, leader of the Iglesia Evanglica Metodista de Bolivia, for her perseverance, Christian character, and for her tireless efforts for peace, reconciliation and justice in the face of centuries of oppression. The World Methodist Peace Award is the highest honour given by the world family of people in the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition.

The World Methodist Council, a Christian World Communion comprised of 76 member churches in the Methodist/Wesleyan family located in 132 countries, began the World Methodist Peace Award in 1971 in Dublin, Ireland. Past recipients include President Boris Trajkovsky, President of the Republic of Macedonia, Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, and Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations.

Nominations for the World Methodist Peace Award are considered annually by the officers of the World Methodist Council and may be made at any time. Letters of nomination should include the rationale for the nomination, information about the nominee's work for peace, reconciliation and justice, and a picture of the nominee should be included. Nominations should be sent to Dr George Freeman, General Secretary, World Methodist Council, PO Box 518, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina 28745, USA.

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