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07-03-2013 | The Americas

Paraguay: Behind bars women work to support their families

Female detainees are often the sole providers for their families so their detention results in great hardship for their loved ones. However in Paraguay an innovative income generating project is helping the detainees and their families better cope mentally, economically and socially.

To mark International Women's Day, the International Committee of the Red Cross is providing exclusive footage from the Buen Pastor Correctional Centre in Asuncion, Paraguay where the ICRC is working with the Paraguay Red Cross to train women in marketable handicraft skills. The handicrafts are sold during visiting days and also made to order for specific clients.

According to the director of the correctional centre, Maria Elena Genes, the programme
changes the women's view of themselves, radically improving their self-esteem and self-belief.

"There is 180 degree change when they say yes I can do something. I can rebuild my life. I can help my family and I can become a better person"

22 year old Karen Alcaraz has been in prison for just over a year. Her mother and sister are also detained with her. She says the handicrafts project has made her feel useful, providing an income for her family inside and outside the prison.

"I am standing on my own two feet. I am making wonderful things and learning wonderful things, finding qualities in myself that I didnt know I had".

Karen has an 8 year old daughter whom she sees every week or fortnight. She comes to visit with her grand-father, Miguel, who has been unemployed for a couple of months.

Karen gives the money she earns from making handicrafts to her father who buys food, clothes and toileteries for the whole family.

Karen hopes that on leaving prison she will be able to use her new found skills to find a job making handicrafts. Other women on the scheme also look to improve themselves and their employment prospects by using the income to pay for their studies while in prison.

Women represent around 4 to 5 % of Paraguay's prison population. They are often rejected by their families and children so maintaining relations with loved ones is essential.

Women who give birth at Buen Pastor, can keep their children with them until the age of three. The ICRC helped establish a maternity room for the mothers where they can share experiences and bond with their children.

"My son has everything he needs here", says Mirna, "and we too dont want for anything"

The ICRC delegation in Brazil covering the region regularly visits detainees in Paraguay,working closely with the Paraguay Red Cross.


Location: Asuncion Paraguay.
Length: 6'30
Format: Mpeg2 / 16:9 HD
Sound: Spanish
ICRC ref: AV060N
Date: 7th March 2013

Copyright: ICRC access all

00:00 General views of Asuncion Paraguay

00:10 Exteriors of the Buen Pastor Correctional Centre, Asuncion, Paraguay

00:24 Interior of the correctional centre

01:04 Karen learning handicraft skills

01:53 Interview: Karen (in Spanish)
"Before entering the project, my life was not normal. Let's say that all I used to do was to get involved in petty crime. Since I started on this International Red Cross project my life has changed a lot."

02:08 Interview: Karen (in Spanish)
"It changed a lot because I learned to value myself, to stand on my own two feet by making wonderful things. Learning wonderful things, and finding qualities in myself that I didn't even know I had".

02:25 Selling handicrafts on visitors day

02:52 Interview: Rocio Rojas Sosa Handicrafts Teacher ICRC Project (in Spanish)
"The project helps the women greatly because they get a sense of an emotional and psychological well-being which far overrides the confines of their life in prison."

03:03 Karen with her mother and sisters together in the prison courtyard.

03:25 Father Miguel with Karen's daughter arriving at the prison

03:35 Interview: Miguel (in Spanish)
"With this money that my daughter sends me I buy everything. I buy shoes, clothes, food and everything we need."

03:54 families together during visitors day

04:01 father with grand-daughter walking into the prison

04:13 family reunion

04:45 Karen giving her father money for the family.

04:56 Karen buying handicrafts

05:13 Interview: Director of the prison Maria Elena Genes (in Spanish)
"There is 180 degree change when they say yes I can do something. I can rebuild my life. I can help my family and I can become a better person. It's like as we often say that when you make a mistake it is the best time to start over. Much better than making the same mistakes again."

05:38 Director of the prison and mothers in maternity room

06:00 Interview: Mirna (in Spanish)
"He has everything. He gets nappies. he gets little presents he gets fruit. Everything that he needs. Us too we don't want for anything".

06:16Children playing in the maternity


Duration : 6m 32s
Size : 494.5 KB
On Screen Credit: ICRC or logo

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