Mayor Dunia Rojas is a force to be reckoned with.
Standing four and a half feet tall with long twin braids down her back, Dunia Rojas is the mayor of the district of Arani, Bolivia. She’s not afraid to face a challenge head on – like getting every person in her district safe water.
Hospitable and humble, Mayor Dunia makes sure we have tea and some pan de Arani – Arani’s famous bread – before she begins sharing her journey to be elected mayor and become a champion for safe water. With an easy smile and a candid humor, Mayor Dunia tells us her story.
When she was inaugurated and took office in June 2015, Mayor Dunia first had to overcome people’s misconceptions about her qualifications.
“For me, it has not been easy being a politician,” Mayor Dunia says, her expression turning somber. “When I started as mayor in 2015, the first six months were very hard. I felt discrimination and humiliation. People were saying, ‘How can an indigenous woman without any profession be the leader of our municipality?’”
“My main focus is to be transparent and honest,” she says with resolve. “As authorities, we have to leave our Arani better, and we must demonstrate our work as women.”
Last year, after completing unfinished projects from the previous mayor, Mayor Dunia finally got to start on the projects she wanted to prioritize. Safe water was first on the list, and she began by starting a water quality lab right upstairs from her office.
“Water quality has always been a major problem, and because of it children would get sick,” Mayor Dunia says. “Now we can test and treat this water.”
It’s just a few years into her term, and every community in Arani has reliable water services.
“Five years ago, here in Arani there was no water,” she says. “Sometimes two days went by and we would only have water for an hour. Now we have water 24 hours a day, and it’s clean and healthy. Mothers are very happy to now have it for washing and cooking, and kids are able to stay in school.”
Mayor Dunia has plans to get water connections for every school and every family, and she is talking with the president of Bolivia about bigger projects for the district of Arani. One of her goals is to put a plan in place that will guarantee water resources are properly managed, an important part of ensuring water lasts for generations to come.
Beyond water, Mayor Dunia has plans for new medical clinics and improved schools. She’s intent on making the lives of people in Arani better than ever before. Despite critics’ doubts, Mayor Dunia has proven her leadership.
“My work will speak for itself,” she says. We agree, it certainly will.
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