The Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Guayabillas (ASOMEG)’s success is undoubtedly due to the hard work and sustained commitment of the women of the Community of Guayabillas, in the Parish of Pacto (northwest of Quito). Fundación Futuro accompanies this process as part of its commitment to the empowerment, organizational strengthening and financial independence of women in the biodiverse area of the Mashpi reserves and Tayra in Ecuador’s Andean Chocó region.
By Diana Troya
The empowerment of women has become more and more part of current discussions around issues of development worldwide. Women’s voices have become more strident as they demand their rights and those of nature, since women are, more often than not, on the front-line of the defence of life and lands. In this context, one of the Fundación Futuro’s objectives is to promote the empowerment of women and their revindication as enhancers and transformers in their homelands. The strengthening of women’s confidence in their own capabilities has the power to transform their realities, through a process that implies an individual change which in turn triggers collective actions.
After the first process of “Empowerment from Self-Knowledge and Women’s Integral Development” in the community of Guayabillas, which took place at the beginning of 2020, the leadership skills and the strategic outlook of women in the area became clear — focusing mainly on entrepreneurship based on local production and fruit processing. The arrival of the health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020 challenged the organizational work of the women. They soon pivoted to meet their most pressing needs: manufacturing masks to supply the community and coordinating food donations to families in need in the surrounding communities.
As keen as ever to continue working, the women adapted to the new situation quickly, using digital communications tools, which allowed them to maintain contact with support organizations and to participate in workshops to acquire new skills. The social dynamics of the group during this time of uncertainty strengthened a space of trust and empowerment that bolstered their relations. With the power and energy generated in this space, the women of Guayabillas have continued to build their entrepreneurship skills and confidence.
The creation of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Guayabillas (ASOMEG) was therefore crystallized, an association born from the process of strengthening women’s organizational skills. In order to add greater value to the fruits produced in the region, Rosa Malles, Jasmine Albán and Irma Napa, with the support of the Fundación Futuro, participated in the call for the Knowledge Factories Program (1). From the start, the three participants had a strong collective spirit and together obtained the funds to acquire a solar dehydrator for ASOMEG. In addition, Lilia Lema and Rosa Malles joined various training programs for the production of jams and dairy derivatives with the Pichincha provincial government on behalf of ASOMEG.
This contagious energy, empathy and flourishing common commitment constantly reaffirms the opportunities to develop sustainable livelihoods, which allow the local women to generate incomes, gain autonomy, live healthily and protect their surroundings. Women, particularly rural women, are not only the most affected by the economic, health and climate crisis, they also constitute the key for finding practical solutions. They have proven to have ideas and leadership skills that allow them to transform their reality through a communal, as opposed to individual, approach to sustainability.
“Yo me sentí muy emocionada porque estamos haciendo nuestro sueño realidad. Se veía muy lindo todo con las etiquetas”—Irma Napa”I feel very excited because we are making our dreams come true. All our products looked amazing with their labels.” Irma Napa
“I felt very happy because we were all together doing things. That is the most important point for me, that we are all in this, in the good times and the bad. ” Mercedes Slim
“I felt companionship because we support each other.” Lilia Lema
“We have all waited so long to be able to do something as a group. It makes me happy to think that we can achieve so many things together.” Rosa Males
Poverty and the gender gap, caused by the weakness of policies that guarantee the rights of women and girls, affect rural more than urban areas of Ecuador. Symbolic and structural violence, triggered by these weaknesses, affects both the lands northwest of Quito and their inhabitants. Working on mechanisms to reduce this violence is key to achieving their welfare. Because of this, the Fundación Futuro has prioritized accompanying and supporting the work of women in the region, in order to contribute to the construction of peaceful and sustainable territories, through the development and formation of start-ups, initiatives and the active participation of women in community decision-making.
“In 10 years’ time, I hope it’s not just us involved, but plenty of other women, too.” Jenny Durán
“We can have big ideas and make our dreams come true. In 10 years, I hope our handmade organic products will be recognized nationwide.” Doña Rosa
“Now we can see ourselves producing hundreds of jams.” ASOMEG
According to data published by Ecuador’s Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion (MIES) and the World Food Organization in reports from 2018-2019 (2), all indices of poverty and social inequality indicate that rural women are the most affected by the gender gap — figures that have been made more acute (3) by the pandemic. According to multiple studies worldwide, violence against women, unemployment rates and unpaid care work increased during the pandemic. To confront this reality, reducing the gender gap is even more relevant in community organizations, local governments and national government in rural areas of Ecuador.
Strengthening the social fabric of the communities that live in or close to biodiverse areas through women is key to mitigating climate change and to assuring effective environmental conservation. Women within these territories have an amplifier effect in terms of socio-environmental well-being. Even when it is largely invisible, women’s work is vital in the renaissance of impacted communities and in forging more equitable futures. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (4), establishes gender equality and the empowerment of women as integral parts of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Guaranteeing respect for women’s rights and girls through all these objectives is the only way to obtain justice, achieve inclusion, create economies that benefit everyone and take care of our environment, now and in generations to come. “- UN Women (5).
In 2020 life as we knew it took an unexpected turn, and humanity’s vulnerability was evident for all amid the global crisis. We have to recognize this historical moment, which reinforces the urgent need to implement creative solutions. Like the health crisis, climate change and environmental degradation require solutions that care for life in all its manifestations, and thereby break the circles that perpetuate inequality. For example, consuming and marketing ASOMEG products (6), not only means supporting entrepreneurship responsible with the environment, but also to support the dream of women of Guayabillas to live in a dignified way in a territory of peace and harmony.
Individual decisions and actions are an essential part of the solution and require inclusive territorial (7) policies that support them if they are to scale and be sustained over time. The Andean Chocó Biosphere Reserve is a palpable example of the power of these joint efforts. Many people, from their own personal actions, find themselves allied in the common goal of achieving sustainable development in the region. They are threading a stronger social fabric that can influence public policies, promote innovative governance models and protect life. A fabric strengthened by every action and decision that makes the care of life in the Andean Chocó a priority.
(6) ASOMEG Fanpage