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Kichwa Women and Girls’ Clubs in Ecuador
At one time in Andean culture, women were treated with respect and admiration. Today, they are discriminated against and marginalized. In Ecuador, Indigenous women have the lowest educational levels, literacy rates and wages. Many also lack access to health care.
Still, women play a key role within the family in indigenous communities as transmitters of ancestral knowledge. They pass on information to future generations with regards to clothing, household and agricultural practices including farming and taking care of the animals.
Free The Children recently started Girls’ Clubs to challenge the prevailing machismo culture, empower young women, and invest in future generations. The project was initiated in the fall of 2010 in the communities of San Miguel and Chismaute. Young girls participate in weekly meetings with the support of their parents who aspire for social change in their families and community.
Girls’ Clubs are a series of educational (and fun!) training sessions that include hands-on activities that touch on environmental, economic, social and cultural issues. The goal is to empower these young girls to be leaders in their communities.
Working on this project for me is both a challenge and a commitment. It is an opportunity to create a space for change in the lives of young women by giving them the opportunity to promote equality while appreciating and respecting our culture.
Respect, tolerance, acceptance, love; these are key words that I believe summarize this program. These young girls are sources of change for the future. In each workshop, I watch as their attitudes become more positive and their voices are heard.
Each workshop is a challenge that strengthens me as a woman. This alternative income project is very powerful and drives me to keep fighting for change with the girls–changes that allow for a better future for indigenous women, and our country as a whole.
Sonia LeÃ³n has been working with Free The Children since July 2010 as an Education Mobilizer in Ecuador. Sonia develops the training and programming curriculum for school gardens, and kitchen and sanitation programs. She also plans, coordinates, and implements the alternative income project “Girls’ Clubs,” which began in two communities in the fall of 2010