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Case #388

Ecuador Community Women?s Movement Makes Changes


Margarita Males Guallosamin is National Coordinator of the Quito sector of the National Women's Movement of Popular Neighborhoods and a leading feminist in Ecuador's grassroots women's movement. With chapters in 8 of the country's 20 provinces, the movement brings together women from a variety of backgrounds - Afro-Ecuadorians, indigenous women, sex workers and other low income urban women. Together they push for women's political participation on a community and national level, as well as women's and children's rights.

Margarita explains that one of the movement's biggest achievements is the sense of friendship and solidarity created amongst the women. In tough times they help each other out, emotionally and often economically, and share valuable information about legal and political rights. `Many of our laws protecting women's rights are good; the problem is educating women about those rights,' she explains. `We educate our daughters that women aren't just for the house and men for the street.'

Ecuador's mainstream women's movement has for the most part been unable or unwilling to reach out to women from marginalized communities. But Margarita has found an ally in Clara Merino, who works with the Corporation to Promote Women (CPM). Over the years, CPM has provided invaluable economic support and access to the often inhospitable world of international donor organizations.

Clara believes local communities are the most important group to work with in terms of women's rights because they have been the most ignored. The statistics alone support her claim: 50 per cent of all Ecuador's urban households are below the poverty line with 19 per cent in extreme poverty. Unemployment amongst Quito's poor is rampant and the majority of women living in `popular neighborhoods' scratch out an existence through the informal sector, tending market stalls or as street-sellers.

From: New Internationalist, November 1999, p.31


Poor women can gain empowerment as well as practical help through grassroots organizations. In this case, the goal was for women's political participation on a community and national level, as well as women's and children's rights. It was helpful to have a set of national laws that support women - the task became educating women about those rights. This group filled a spot not often addressed by international NGOs as those groups would tend to work with the basic survival issues of poor women. This goal could be transferable to other localities. It would need a strong underlying organization (national if possible) and strong leaders. One measure of success of the group is a quote from Ms. Gualloosamin: ?women's representatives attend local community meetings and have a say in making policy alongside the men. And now the same women who were against us in the beginning bring their children to our daycare service.?
Location: Ecuador
Setting: Third World
Extent of Action: National
Issues: Human Rights
Year(s): 2001
Outcome in progress
Source: New Internationalist, November 1999, p. 31


Prepared By: sl 1/02
Rating: 1
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