Voix Libres in BoliviaVoix Libres (Free Voices) was founded in 1993 by Marianne Sebastien, who is primarily a singer and who has integrated song into her basic development approach with amazing success. Voix Libres’s primary goal was to offer alternatives to child labor in the mines, fields, garbage dumps and streets of Bolivia.  The association is active all over the region of the Altiplano, from Lake Titicaca to Villazón in the South and mining areas of Potosi, Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz as well as in the slums of larger cities.

The approach adopted by Voix Libres is quite unique. It speaks of inner (personal) development as the basis of exterior (material and social) development.  All the work of the NGO is based on the following qualities:

Love: This is the foundation stone of all Free Voices activities.

Trust: When one totally trusts the grassroots, they respond by doing amazing things in all areas. Marianne loves repeating that the best specialists of poverty are the poor themselves.

Solidarity: Each person who receives something from Voix Libres (e.g. training) is encouraged to share it with others.

Self–esteem is essential to anyone who wishes to progress in life, especially people who have received none. Among the many tools used by the organization to stimulate self–esteem are the arts and especially singing.

Always emphasize the positive, the potential: Domestic violence (including sexual abuse) is one of the great social problems of the planet. Most programs “against”   domestic violence have failed in the world or worked only very poorly. In Bolivia, 85% of children and two thirds of the women are beaten. Free Voices adopted a completely different approach: it started a campaign “For Good Treatments.”

Empowerment of the grass roots: So many development programs all round the world have failed because they were conceived by an outside agency, and carried out in a top–bottom manner, with little or insufficient local grass roots involvement. Free Voices will not start an activity until it is certain the grass roots will carry it in the long run.

The impact of Voix Libres has been enormous: a million lives touched, with women playing a leadership role, many of the most extreme forms of unacceptable poverty and exploitation eradicated in large areas, and above all thousands of individuals who begin to really trust in themselves and are empowered to run their own lives in a more autonomous and dignified manner. 120,000 families have benefited from interest-free micro-credit to form local autonomous business.  250 infrastructures created, including 18 villages for mistreated children of the mines, streets and rubbish dumps. Violence against women and children significantly reduced in three provinces of Bolivia thanks to education and a Campaign for Good Treatment; 10,000 children no longer go hungry thanks to food distribution program. Of the 500 employees of Free Voices, the majority are young people who are “survivors. Some 3000 “recyclers” who used to eat rubbish, now manage an organic quinoa enterprise. A hundred families exiled in the shanty towns have now returned to cultivate 500 hectares of quinoa in Uyuni, for their own consumption but also for export. And so much more!

To learn more about this truly amazing organization, please visit


While progress is being made,  much remains to be done, and here this blessing and the love we send to victims of child labor cannot but help: https://gentleartofblessing.org/blessings-for-situations/274-blessing-concerning-child-labor-in-the-world

Progress Report on Child Labor

In 2016, there were 152 million children worldwide who were child laborers, down from 250 million at the turn of the millennium, according to a progress report of the International Labor Organization. Behind the drop, experts say, are efforts to get children into school, the enforcement of established labor laws, and programs that boost incomes for poor families. But serious concerns remain: The rate at which boys and girls are being pulled from dangerous work has slowed in the past four years, and experts say that ambitious global targets to end child labor by 2025 appear out of reach.

One troubling trend: In sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of child labor actually is increasing. For example, in Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Cameroon, and Chad, more than half of all children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labor. Many children in these countries are involved the worst forms of child labor, such as human trafficking or sexual trafficking. Read the entire article at https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Progress-Watch/2017/1024/Child-labor-plunges-Millions-more-children-get-a-childhood?cmpid=shared-email