Self-Determination in EcuadorFor indigenous people in the Americas, one of the greatest struggles has been for the right to their land and autonomy. Historically, this has been an uphill battle, but a recent legal victory by the Waorani tribe in the Amazon rainforest set an important legal precedent for indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador.

The Waorani Tribe’s Legal Victory

In the past few years, the Ecuadorian government has been dividing much of its rainforest land, including Waorani territory, into blocks to be leased out for mineral and oil rights through international auctions. The lawsuit contends that the tribe was not properly consulted about the auction. According to Amazon Frontlines, a non-governmental organization that worked with the tribe on the lawsuit, the consultation process by the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources had numerous failings in design and implementation.

Some issues cited in the lawsuit were “bad faith and false reporting of compliance, unintelligible communications, grossly insufficient time allocation, unaddressed complexities of translation, and poorly crafted informatic materials.” On April 26, 2019, a panel of three judges ruled that the Ecuadorian government had failed to properly inform the Waorani tribe or receive its consent for its land to be auctioned off. They ruled that the free, prior and informed consent process must be repeated.

A Victory for All Amazon Tribes and the Land

This ruling was not only a victory for the Waorani tribe but an overall win for indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador because the Waorani people’s territory was not the only indigenous land up for auction. According to Maria Espinosa, one of the Waorani’s lawyers, the ruling means that, because the land of the other tribes was dealt with under the “same flawed and unconstitutional process” as that of the Waorani, “the State cannot auction off the territories.” This is a huge victory for indigenous people in Ecuador.

This victory has also set a precedent for the rights of the rainforest itself. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to recognize the rights of nature to exist and act out its processes. Ecuador has some of the most diverse varieties of species on the planet. Globally, it has the highest number of species per area, including at least “1,500 species of birds, more than 840 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 300 species of mammals.” In Yasuni National Park alone, there is more flora variety than any other place on the planet with more than 20,000 species.

Alternatives to Oil

The Ecuadorian government has appealed the verdict. The South American country is currently the fourth-smallest producer of oil, but it is looking to attract investors in the fossil fuel industry. In 2018, President Lenín Moreno argued that the public-private partnerships in infrastructure, oil, energy and telecoms could bring in $7 billion dollars in investments by 2021.

However, Ecuador has shown success in producing clean energy, and a more sustainable solution to boosting the economy could be found in tourism. With its natural beauty and biodiversity, the Ecuador tourism industry grew by 44 percent from 2017 through 2018, bringing in an estimated 1.3 billion dollars. Through building these sectors, Ecuador could find an alternative to auctioning off its oil rights.

It’s unclear how the courts will rule on the appeal. At the moment, it is a victory for the protection of the rainforest and indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador. Even if they lose on the appeal, the Waorani people are not giving up. Nemonte Nenquimo, president of the Waorani Pastaza Organization said, “We have shown the government to respect us, and other indigenous people of the world, that we are the guardians of the jungle, and we’re never going to sell our territory.

– Katharine Hanifen

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Ecuador
Ecuador, a small country in South America, known for its impressive ecological diversity, has made great strides in improving education access for Ecuadorian girls in the past few years.

Still, there are several barriers that prevent many Ecuadorian girls to finish secondary school or make them quit school even earlier.

The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador presented below are exploring the root causes of this issue, as well as the recent leaps towards progress.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Ecuador

  1. Thirty-one percent of adolescent women in Ecuador do not graduate from secondary school. In indigenous populations, this number is even higher and stands at 44 percent. In Afro-Ecuadorian groups, this number is 42 percent and in the Montubio population, 33 percent. Plan International Ecuador offers scholarships to young women to continue their education, as well as classes to teach parents the importance of their daughters’ education.
  2. In recent years, an estimated 149,572 girls aged from 5 to 17 (about  1 percent of the total population) do not attend school because they are doing domestic work instead. This issue also affects different ethnic groups disproportionately since 13 percent of Montubio girls, 15 percent of Afro-Ecuadorian and 17 percent of indigenous girls are missing school due to domestic work.
  3. Some Ecuadorian families take part in a practice that offers their girls food, lodging or other necessities in exchange for doing domestic work. Cultural and familial expectations prevent the girls from having a choice. In years prior to 2009, The Social Observatory estimated that 718 girls did not attend school because they were doing unpaid domestic work as a part of this type of transaction.
  4. In 2009, 2,083 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth, while 60,623 births were recorded with mothers aged from 15 to 19. Due to strict legal restrictions on abortions, girls who become pregnant must either give birth or undergo illegal abortions, and the cultural expectation of mothers to assume the majority of parental responsibilities puts young mothers in a position where they are unable to continue their education.
  5. Twenty-two percent of girls in Ecuador are married before they turn 18, despite a Civil Code reform enacted in 2015 that raised the legal age of marriage for girls from 12 to 18. Underaged brides often engage in domestic chores and other marital duties, including premature parenthood, in place of continuing their education. In 2017, two nongovernmental organizations, Let Girls Rise and Girls Not Brides partnered and enacted a plan to advocate for legislative, cultural and social reform to further prevent the marriage of underage girls.
  6. Sexual violence against girls often occurs in schools. In a study conducted by Plan Internacional, it was founded that girls are often sexually abused by their teachers and older students. Ecuador’s education minister has acknowledged the prevalence of sexual violence in schools and the need to combat this issue.
  7. The problems tend to affect women and girls in rural areas more than those who live in urban areas. Fourteen percent of women in rural areas are illiterate, in comparison to 5 percent in inner cities. Rural girls attend school for an average of 7.1 years as opposed to urban girls, who attend school for an average of 10.9 years. In addition to domestic work, rural Ecuadorian women tend to do agricultural work as well. Many rural women are indigenous and face a higher rate of domestic violence.
  8. A staggering 78 percent of Ecuadorian girls are subjected to some form of abuse at home. This discourages girls from attending school by affecting their overall emotional well-being and sense of self-worth. Progressive legislative changes in the past few decades, including the Law against Violence toward Women and the Family (1995) and the rewriting of the constitution in 1998 to include Ecuadorian women’s equal rights in several sections, have been made.
  9. Approximately 2 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys are not enrolled in primary school. Almost 92 percent of girls and 94 percent of boys above the age of 15 are literate. In 2014, nearly 74 percent of girls in Ecuador completed their primary education. In 2015, nearly 42 percent of girls completed secondary school.
  10. There are several nongovernment initiatives working to improve conditions for girls in Ecuador. WE is an organization that contributes to improving girls’ by creating and running girls’ clubs, improving access to water and building and rehabilitating schools in rural areas. Plan International Ecuador hosts workshops for girls that encourages them to envision successful futures for themselves and begin to consider career plans. CENIT is a nonprofit organization that was founded to improve conditions and decrease abuse of girls working in Ecuador and continues to provide integrated educational, vocational, health, social and psychological services.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador highlight the obstacles that stand between Ecuadorian girls and their education in order to contribute to restructuring oppressive legal and cultural systems that have allowed this problem to persist.

While some of this information can be disheartening, all signs are pointing towards progress for girls and adolescent women Ecuador.

Knowing and sharing these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador will help increase awareness of these complex issues, as well as the large number of legislators, humanitarian organizations and collective initiatives on the ground that are all paving the way for a future where all Ecuadorian girls will have access to the education and quality of life that they deserve.

– Shannon Mullery
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Ecuador
Ecuador has long welcomed backpackers and tourists from around the world who wish to indulge in its rich culture and diverse nature. For this reason, one will encounter many resources for westerners considering resettling in the country.

The following 10 facts about living conditions in Ecuador focus on its natives rather than on expats who often settle in Ecuador carrying wealth and resources with them.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Ecuador

  1. In 2015, the life expectancy of an Ecuadorian was 76 years. This number is higher than in previous years but still lower than most countries like the U.K. where life expectancy was 81 years in 2015.
  2. In 2016, 22.9 percent of the Ecuadorian population lived below the national poverty line. This is lower than the 64.4 percent living below the poverty line in 2000. However, it is slightly higher than its 2014 rate of 22.5 percent. Thus, this statistic should be monitored in coming years to ensure that the rate does not increase or stabilize.
  3. In 2017, the average monthly wage was $437.44. This number is a slight increase from 2016 when the average monthly wage was $426.92. However, it is still significantly lower than the average monthly wage of $4,893 in the U.S.
  4. In 2018, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent. A year prior, the unemployment rate in Ecuador was 5.4 percent. This suggests that the country is making slow progress.
  5. The 2018 labor force participation rate was 63.2 percent. This is lower than the 2017 labor force participation rate of 66 percent. There are many possibilities for this trend, including changes in social security systems and increased labor costs.
  6. Seventy-seven percent of indigenous children in Ecuador live in poor homes with daily incomes of just $2 or less. Seven percent of Ecuadorians are indigenous, which means that this 77 percent of indigenous children comprise a significant part of the total population.
  7. In 2016, the literacy rate in Ecuador was 94.4 percent. The literacy rate among women was 93.3 percent and 95.4 percent among men. This is much better than Tanzania where the literacy rate among adults is 77.89 percent. However, it is lower than in Spain where the literacy rate is 98.25 percent.
  8. In 2014, the infant mortality rate in Ecuador was 8.4 deaths per every 1,000 live births. This is down from 15.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000. However, this number is higher than that of the U.S., which faced just 5.82 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2014.
  9. In 2017, there was an average of 2.19 children born to every woman in Ecuador. This placed Ecuador in 99th place out of 224 countries in terms of births per woman. Niger was in first with 6.49 births per woman, while Singapore came in last with just 0.83 births per woman.
  10. In 2013, the Ecuadorian government passed communication laws that limit free speech. These laws require the verification of all information that the media wishes to disseminate. This allows the government to protect certain ideas or pieces of information and prevents freedom of expression and participation in national or international affairs.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Ecuador evoke hope for the country’s potential for progress and a sense of urgent need for change. Among developing countries, Ecuador is doing relatively well. It is experiencing steady growth and its poverty rate has dramatically declined. However, it has a lot of growing to do before it reaches its full potential and becomes sufficiently developed.

– Julia Bloechl

Photo: Flickr

Galapagos tourism reduces poverty
Tourism can be an important tool for developing countries to reduce domestic poverty. The global industry is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s GDP and helps provide foreign exchange earnings and over 235 million jobs. Many of these jobs belong to the poor in developing countries because of the labor-intensive and low-skill nature of work in the tourism sector.

Tourism’s Impact

Workers can often make $1,000 to $4,000 a year which can help bring workers and their families above the poverty line. Employment can be scarce in some developing countries, which makes tourism a necessary stimulant in otherwise stagnant economies. International arrivals continue to increase each year, which creates an even greater demand for labor.

One developing nation that sustainably benefits from the tourism industry is Ecuador.

Equador and the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos islands host one of the few remaining natural sanctuaries for marine and bird life such as sea lions, octopi, sharks and flamingos in the world. Many of these species are endemic to the Galapagos, which means that they do not exist anywhere else in the world.

The animal life, geologic activity and lack of development have made the archipelago a premier travel destination for wealthy patrons looking for an expeditionary vacation. The islands continue to gain popularity as the number of visitors has grown from 17,500 in 1980 to over 200,000 in 2012.

The Ecuadorian government has kept pace with growing demand, while still preserving the untouched beauty of the Galapagos by employing a platform of Eco-Tourism.


The World Conservation Union defines Eco Tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.” The goals of eco-tourism are to capitalize on the economic benefits of tourism while minimizing the negative effects it can have on the environment and local people.

Ecuadorian policymakers have actualized this approach in a manner that has maximized benefits to tourists, the local population and ecosystems alike.

The increasing popularity of the Galapagos islands for tourists has been met with several regulations designed to protect the environment and interests of the local people. The government mandates that cruise ships must be kept in Ecuadorian ports, which incentivizes international cruise liners to staff their boats with locals and purchase supplies from the mainland.

Poverty Reduction

Such occurrences couples the direct benefits of tourist expenditures on the islands with the indirect benefits of employment, trade, transport, construction and social services.

A study by Edward Taylor entitled Ecotourism and Economic Growth in the Galapagos (2006) found that overall tourism generates $200 million in revenues. Meanwhile, the locally-owned hostels have gained more popularity with tourists as a more affordable option to the small cruises.  These hostels expose tourists to local markets and restaurants, which further directs capital flows away from international cruise lines and towards the people of Ecuador.

Galapagos tourism reduces poverty by focusing on the inclusion and welfare of the locals. The environment has also benefited from this Eco-Touristic approach.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

The islands were made a national park in 1959 and have become further protected as tourist numbers have increased. “Cruises are limited to having 100 guests per trip,” only certain areas are designated for expeditions and 97 percent of the island is protected from human habitation. Measures like these have protected the endemic wildlife of the Galapagos from human interference and invasive species.

The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview an expedition leader for the Silver Seas cruise in the Galapagos, and he stated that “tourism only adds an average of 1,500 extra people to the islands each day because of the regulations.” Thus, Galapagos tourism reduces poverty without harming the environment.

The conservation measures taken by the Ecuadorian government have minimized the effects of human activity, but the presence of humans has still caused problems for some of the native wildlife.

Migration Ramifications

The migration of mainland Ecuadorians to the three percent of the island not protected by national park statuses has created a presence of feral dogs, cats and goats that outcompete the native animals and bring some to the point of starvation.

The guide even explained that “feral dogs eat the baby giant tortoise eggs and the goats feed on the plants that several of native herbivores rely on to survive.”

A Prosperous Balance

The governing body of the Galapagos has responded by attempting to exterminate these feral animals and create breeding centers for endangered native species, but it’s important for tourists and migrants alike to respect the true natives of the archipelago.

Eco-Tourism, as seen in the Galapagos, should serve as a model for other vacation destinations. The Galapagos tourism reduces poverty through the influx of foreign spending and the jobs created, without harming the natural environment which is allowing tourism to flourish as well.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Google

A complicated and complex country, Ecuador has undergone a range of human rights abuses and solutions. Below are the top 10 facts about human rights in Ecuador, which includes the mistreatment of prisoners and corruption in government processes.

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Ecuador

  1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held hearings over the issues of violence and human rights; however, there were concerns over a lack of state representatives at the hearings. While the IACHR is trying to address social problems in Ecuador, there is still a lack of governmental involvement and interest to have human rights legislation passed.
  2. While the constitution prohibits the use of excessive force, torture or cruel punishment, there have been reports of police officers and guards abusing subjects: On September 4, 2017 human rights organizations reported allegations of torture amongst inmates at the Turi prison center; a doctor examined one of the prisoners and confirmed the claims. Judge Alfredo Serrano acquitted 15 police officers and dismissed charges against 32 other officers under investigation of abuse and exercising excessive force.
  3. President Lenin Moreno publicly endorsed respect for free speech and civil society. In 2013, the previous president Rafael Correa signed a communications law that prohibits and punishes media outlets that cover government issues that are considered public interest — limiting freedom of speech. Lenin Moreno, the new president, was elected last year and expressed interest for supporting freedom of speech.
  4. Prison and Detention Centers have harsh living conditions. Food shortages, overcrowding, harassment from prison guards and meager sanitation and medical services prove to make living conditions severe. Some facilities are reported to have medical services but only for emergency care — medicines are often unavailable and most do not have access to dental care.
  5. Prison officials ignore human rights activists and relatives of the inmates. Officials were expected to provide monthly provisions for prisoners which they did not and would not allow for relatives to purchase basic supplies — such as clothes and toiletries — outside of the detention center.
  6. Some prisoners in these detention centers had not been released after serving their time. Due to corruption and bureaucratic insufficiencies, inmates remained incarcerated even after they had served a full sentence.
  7. Refugees and migrants are denied basic due process. About 150 Cubans were apprehended during a raid in a park — they were protesting an inability to obtain a humanitarian visa from Mexico, which would allow them to travel to the U.S. border. The judges handling the cases did not follow due process and ordered the deportation of the refugees. They were deported before having a chance to appeal their cases.
  8. The government can intervene with nongovernmental organizations. Correa implemented a decree in 2013 that allows the government to interfere with nongovernmental organizations — the decree has dissolved an environmental group and one of the oldest unions of teachers.
  9. There has also been corruption in arbitrary arrests. Under the constitution, citizens of Ecuador are protected from arbitrary arrests and any person can challenge the lawfulness of their arrest. On April 27, 2018, Jimpikit Agustin Wachapa, an indigenous leader, was released after being incarcerated in a maximum-security prison —since December of 2016 — in the town of Latacunga without a judicial order.
  10. Violence against women is also a consistent human rights issue. In November of last year, the national assembly passed legislation that would protect women and girls from abuse and mistreatment; however, president Moreno partially vetoed the bill and proposed modifications in December.

Creating Postive Change

These are the top ten facts about human rights in Ecuador. They are the pressing matters amongst the public, those in detention centers and human rights advocacy groups in Ecuador. Such facts deserve global recognition, consistent improvement and high prioritization.

– David Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Ecuador
Several aid organizations are working to improve the access that girls have to educational opportunities in Ecuador. According to UNICEF, girls’ education in Ecuador is affected by social factors, and providing girls with access to education that is equal to boys has been an issue for some time.

Statistics Illustrate the Gaps in Girls’ Education in Ecuador

According to UNICEF, approximately 97.4 percent of children in Ecuador attended school in 2013. However, there are still improvements to be made. The organization noted that there still are more than 230,000 children between the ages of five and 17 that are not receiving any kind of education

Social factors make it difficult for some children, especially girls and women, to gain equal access to education. When girls are given away to men by their families as part of an agreement, it is difficult for women to access the educational opportunities that they otherwise would, as their role becomes that of wife and mother.

On this subject, UNICEF has noted, “The Social Observatory of Ecuador has found that for previous years 718 girls do not attend school and are working without remuneration. This condition is possible when the family gives the girl as part of an agreement to ensure that they have food, lodging or for some kind of transaction.”

Organizations Making a Difference

Plan International Ecuador is working to support women as they achieve their professional and educational goals and the issues surrounding girls’ education in Ecuador. Plan International Ecuador started a letter campaign to raise awareness of the issues girls face and the problems that unequal access to education cause for them. More than 1,300 girls wrote letters to explain their struggles, and made paintings to raise awareness about the change needs to take place in the social and educational systems there. Awareness of the issue is an important factor in improving girls’ education in Ecuador.

Some organizations, such as the Manna Project, have taken a more holistic approach to the issue, providing a wide range of services to increase opportunities for women and girls. These include English lessons for both children and adults, job skills training and professional development, among others.

The European Commission has taken the approach of improving the system for both boys and girls. Improving education as a whole and not focusing only on girls’ access to education will broaden the educational opportunities that girls will have available to them. The European Commission has defined its goal as reducing child labor in Ecuador and, instead, giving these children a chance to participate in school. One objective listed on the European Commission’s website is “to prevent 5,000 children from engaging in labor activities and take 2,800 children out of the work environment.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2015 99.3 percent of children in Ecuador were attending school, a sign of progress. However, aid organizations are still looking for ways to improve the child labor statistics. Although the percentage may appear small, in 2015 approximately 75,689 children were working.

The U.S.-based Ecuador Children’s Hope Organization has been raising money to improve the education system in Ecuador overall as well. The aid organization raises money to support other organizations and educational systems in Ecuador, taking the approach of improving the system as a whole as other organizations specifically focus on the social factors that influence equal opportunity in Ecuador. With the work of organizations like this, girls’ education in Ecuador has seen great improvements and continues to progress.

– Gabriella Evans
Photo: Flickr

How the U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid to EcuadorThe U.S. often has something to gain when it chooses to lend a hand to a country in need. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ecuador by sponsoring structured efforts to eradicate narcotics and human trafficking. Ecuador has a long history of being an essential piece in the transportation of such networks. This has subsequently been a focus of foreign aid from the U.S. to Ecuador for quite some time. Despite USAID leaving Ecuador in 2014, the country has continued implementing the strategies fostered by American and Ecuadorian relations.

Thanks to the relations between the U.S. and Ecuador, the country has made significant progress to curb drug trafficking and modern-day slavery because of these initiatives:

  • U.S. logistical and operational support in counternarcotic cases
  • Prevention and rehabilitation programs after addiction was declared a public health issue
  • Criminal code targeting drug transit through tiered penalties
  • Improvement of detection and analysis in special crime laboratories in Quito and Guayaquil
  • Increases in the monitoring of maritime trade

Ecuador is working to increase the seizure of illicit drugs, especially cocaine, as well as the vigilance of law enforcement in arresting key players in the narcotics trade. The country has been incrementally successful and is seeing new progress each year.

The supplanting of restorative systems returns benefits to the U.S. As one of America’s largest commerce partners, it remains crucial that trade stay legal and in compliance with human rights. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ecuador because the decrease in narcotics transit spares the U.S. from networks of volatile crime.

To address human trafficking, the U.S. began implementing steps within Ecuador to aid the country with this prevalent issue. America and Ecuador are aiming to educate the people of Ecuador with:

  • Public service announcements played throughout children’s television programs detailing the rights of each child in order to instill the knowledge of such rights in children from an early age, as well as in their parents.
  • An educational campaign and two-day conference depicting judicial corruption in Ecuador for the public.

Additionally, the American Bar Association (ABA) has been working continuously in Ecuador to strengthen its justice system. The ABA has aided Ecuadorian lawyers in transitioning from the old inquisitorial criminal justice system to an adversarial criminal justice system, which has proven to be a challenge, as the judiciary still clings to the previous system.

According to the ABA website, the organization has aided in the institution of hybrid law, “a mixture of civil law and common law systems” and analyzing the effectuality of such law in Ecuador specifically.

Similar to the reduction of illegal narcotics transportation, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ecuador through reciprocatory change. By pushing Ecuador in the right direction to minimize illegal trade, America is consequently minimizing active human trafficking within its borders.

Essentially, the trade and transport of narcotics and human trafficking webs in Ecuador directly affect the same trade and transport in the United States. These dual-effort relations have resulted in a consistently increasing number of arrests, seizures and preventions of human and narcotics trade. Each time America helps Ecuador target this issue, it also directly targets the issue within its own borders.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr

credit access in EcuadorEcuador, located on the northwest coast of South America, implemented numerous credit programs in recent years. These changes help raise credit access in Ecuador and affect women and high-poverty communities the most.

According to the U.S. Department of State, 10 tax laws were passed in Ecuador from 2006 to 2012, all working to help credit accessibility and the economy. An estimated 5,000 new jobs will be created in 2015 to 2019 from finance programs.


The Programs

The National Program for Finance, Entrepreneurship and Economic Solidarity (PNFPEES), established in 2009, works to help people in high-poverty areas gain credit access in Ecuador by providing loans. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loaned $50 million to help employment opportunities grow and to expand microcredit, mainly for women with low income. IDB is also working to increase credit access in poverty-ridden areas of Ecuador by 60 percent.

World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) works to help extend credit to those who are poor or low-income clients. WOCCU established three programs to help grow access to credit:

  1. The Cooperative Strengthening Program
  2. The Rural Savings and Credit with Education (CREER) Program
  3. The Savings and Credit with Education (SCWE) Program

WOCCU and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) built the three programs on past designs and determined the best way to further credit access in Ecuador.

CREER has been one of the most effective programs for an increase in credit access in Ecuador. According to WOCCU, CREER uses five 16- to 24-week cycles of loans. The first loan starts at $200 and can then be increased in $100 increments up to $600 if they are paid off by the end of the cycles. Furthermore, this program is involved with four different credit unions, helping people to reach an all-time high of self-sufficiency at 168 percent.


How the Programs Help Women

According to WOCCU, 48 percent of the clients of these programs are women, with more than 200,000 registered accounts. The SCWE program works to help women who are capable of working with microenterprise but do not have the necessary assets to be successful.

In the villages, credit unions work with 20 to 25 members who want the access to credit and loans. Part of the CREER program from WOCCU found that the women requested — and demonstrated the ability to pay off — higher loan amounts than the standard $60 to $300. The credit unions noticed the women’s potential and raised the loan amounts. Many of these women and other persons in low-income areas had an option to graduate from the credit unions, which allowed them access to loans of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000.

The mix of these programs from USAID and other organizations have worked successfully to expand credit access in Ecuador for not only women but also people who live in low-income areas. All of these programs give people a chance to have credit and take out loans that they might not otherwise have access to.

– Amber Duffus

Photo: Flickr

Thriving Through Sustainable Agriculture in Ecuador
Ecuador is looking to improve its standard of living by putting more of a focus on sustainable agriculture.

This effort begs the question though of: what exactly is sustainable agriculture? The answer is that sustainable agriculture is the production of plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment and public health of a country; or in other words, an effort that has become incredibly important in Ecuador in recent years.

One example of these extremely important developments is a farm in Ecuador that invites tourists to experience the process of farming for themselves at Rio Muchacho, an organic farm and eco-lodge located on the western coast. Open for almost 30 years, the farm began as a way to produce healthy food.

Early in its start, the farm focused on fixing the soil erosion by reforesting the hills around it; Rio Muchacho helped reforest again in Bahia about 15 years ago.

Biodiversity Encourages Sustainable Agriculture in Ecuador

Despite being a small country in South America, Ecuador is one of the top 10 most biodiverse places in the world. With over 20,000 species of plants and 1,500 species of birds, Ecuador’s forests are bursting with diverse lifeforms.

Unfortunately, Ecuador has the worst deforestation rate and environmental quality in all of South America, according to the nature website, Mongabay; in fact, logging on the western coast is to blame for the loss of so many trees.

A national forest program was created in 2002, and SocioBosque is the program Ecuador’s government introduced in 2008 and as of 2012. Since its conception, the program has protected 1.1 million hectares, or 2.7 million acres, of native ecosystems, including grasslands.

Unfortunately, though, the program has suffered in recent years due to a lack of funding. The Ministry of Environment is often unable to properly enforce the law when it comes to deforestation.

Conservation International and Farming in Ecuador

Conservation International works with SocioBosque to strengthen the land and communities; one of the ways the organization accomplishes this is by working with sustainable agriculture in Ecuador. Their way of “living green” helps over 1 million people and also prevents a large majority of citizens from experiencing poverty. Farmers rely on the land, and Conservation International works with the Ecuadorian government to protect 10 million acres of forests while also providing education on how to preserve land and become more efficient with it.

Farmers in Ecuador also work together to not only save their land but also the produce they grow. The price of food can increase dramatically in some cities by the time it reaches the end consumer. Also, local regulations can prevent farmers from selling their produce outside the Guayaquil Grocery Terminal, a place established in 2000 as a way to sell goods.

The Federation of Agriculture Centers and Peasant Organizations of Ecuador was founded in 2003 to promote a chemical-free and sustainable way of living off the land and protecting the agriculture. Through this group, farmers are able to protect their interests and the land, all while selling organic produce to schools and businesses.

The sustainable agricultural practices used by farmers include rotation of crops for healthy soil, planting trees and shrubs to protect smaller crops and reducing plowing. As a whole, sustainable agriculture in Ecuador promotes biodiversity and also minimizes pollution. Thankfully, the nation finds success in its agricultural sectors, and will most likely continue with this trend in the future.

– Nicole Moylan

Photo: Flickr

In 1929, Ecuador became the first Latin American country to grant literate women the right to vote. The right was adopted during the presidency of Isidro Ayora and was done as a buffer against “a growing socialist threat in society,” as described by Marc Becker in his 1999 thesis. The change in suffrage rights was seen less as a victory for women’s empowerment in Ecuador and more as a move to keep the growing feminist movement and the Communist Party in check.

According to Becker, equality wasn’t a reality for these women since a patriarchal society still governed them. In addition, Spanish colonization during the 16th century had brought with it Catholic faith and spread the concept of marianismo, pure and virginal women. According to Evelyn Stevens and Tracy Ehlers, women were expected to accept the fate that was handed to them, that of being solely mothers and wives. This mentality still prevails today and entails the sacrifice of the women’s wants, desires and dreams for those of their family, predominately the men’s.

On April 16, 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador, affecting 720,000 people. The earthquake left the country in ruins but that wasn’t all it did: it created a call for action, especially for women. Many Ecuadorean women felt that it was their duty to assist in rebuilding after the earthquake. A 35-year old woman named Veronica Lucas Melo stepped up, accompanied by three other women in her community. These women were determined to show their families and the community itself that women are capable of reconstructing their country.

She recalls the reaction her family had: “They said that I was going to do nothing useful there, just bother everyone. They asked me, ‘what are you supposed to do in a place that’s for men?’” As a mother of three children and a housewife who had never worked outside of her home, her main motivation was to set an example for her children. Another predominant purpose was the fact that the earthquake had damaged the farming ground on which her family relied so heavily. By going out to aid in the reconstruction of her country, she was advocating and bringing much-needed awareness to women’s empowerment in Ecuador.

A joint U.N. program called “Cash for Work” was seeking to reactivate the local economy, and had already trained and certified 48 people from earthquake-affected communities by that time. When the programme was completed, participants were registered in an employment database of local people available for rebuilding. Melo heard about this opportunity and felt that it was exactly what she needed to learn new life skills and generate income to provide for her children.

Training in stone and construction work was conducted in Las Giles and Manta with support from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Justice. One the first day Melo showed the women involved in this programme that women’s empowerment in Ecuador doesn’t have to be scary. She did this by picking up her tool to strike down a broken wall and the other women cheered her on and joined in. The actions that Melo took were huge and it became a movement for the mutual collaboration between men and women to rebuild Ecuador. “Men began to take us seriously. They didn’t see us as weak anymore and worked with us as a team,” she said.

According to U.N. Women Ecuador representative Moni Pizani, the post-earthquake recovery time presented “a unique opportunity to lay the foundations” for autonomy and women’s empowerment in Ecuador. “It’s a chance to dismantle gender stereotypes and build more equal societies,” she said.

In May 2016, U.N. Women in Ecuador organized a training workshop called,“Tools For My Personal and Business Development,” in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice. It provided entrepreneurship skills to 80 women from the nearby Calceta and Rocafuerte communities.

In these training sessions, the women were taught a range of topics for setting up and operating their own businesses. According to the Huffington Post, after three days of training, many women “already had a vision of the businesses they would establish.” U.N. Women has also come out in support of women’s participation in shelters, police and security training as a way to prevent and address gender-based violence. Women’s empowerment in Ecuador can prevent violence and ensure a better future for the country as a whole.

– Nicole Suárez

Photo: Flickr