Sucumbíos in northern Ecuador is considered one of the poorest provinces in the country. Most people have only limited access to health and education as well as political and social participation. Women are particularly affected by this situation. Since December 2017, they have been receiving support in the areas of women's health and violence prevention through the local partner organisation Federación de Mujeres de Sucumbíos (FMS). Many things have been improved since then.
Only every fifth woman associated with the women's association FMS has ever had a complete health check in her life. Only one in four of them has health insurance. These conditions gave reason for a project launched in 2017 to offer marginalised women access to adequate health care and preventive measures. Two years later, more than 800 women have received specific preventive medical check-ups, for example through health brigades. They also took the opportunity to receive further training in workshops on health. In these workshops, they learned more about topics such as cancer detection and prevention, the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the possibilities of family planning.
The workshops also addressed women's rights and sexual violence in order to strengthen women's political participation. Women's rights often play a subordinate role and are not considered in political decisions. "I enjoyed these workshops very much because now we are no longer being disregarded. They showed us how we can strengthen our self-confidence. I know that I am worth something and that I have been a courageous woman until now. I want to encourage my female companions not to give up," says Vilma Cando, who attended an FMS workshop on women's empowerment.
Courage is also needed in the light of latent violence: according to a survey by the FMS, eight out of ten women in the province of Sucumbíos have directly experienced gender-specific or intra-family violence. However, it is estimated that only 10 percent of those affected report it and subsequently receive support. Those who have experienced violence and are threatened by it find shelter and help in the women's house "Casa Amiga" run by the FMS. In 2019, 101 affected women and their children were able to find temporary accommodation here and thereby escaped the violence in their homes.
Due to the situation, communities are made aware of interfamily and sexual violence within the project. In support groups women can now talk about violence and articulate measures against it. Social, psychological and legal support as well as counselling are available to assist them, which are urgently needed. In 2019, 375 women accepted these important services in a care facility of the FMS.
It's like weaving a net of invisible strings between the women and this net will catch them. It's a miracle that a woman can recognize herself and her reality in another woman's reality. It is like a magnet that holds everyone together," says Amparo Peñaherrera, coordinator of the FMS, about the important work within the groups.
The project ends in December 2020 and is financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).