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What is the role of indigenous women in the artisan communities of Ecuador?

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

The presence of indigenous women in Ecuador has been important throughout the history of Ecuador. Great examples of this are the two indigenous leaders Dolores Cacuango and Tránsito Amaguaña. Both were women who lived in poverty and with little education. Despite this, they managed to improve their communties' working conditions and the creation of the first bilingual school for their areas in northern Ecuador. So, why is it important to know this? Well, it is necessary to recognize that despite the struggles and the time that has elapsed, illiteracy and poverty are still the reality of many indigenous women in the country. Adding to this, it is also important to acknowledge the obstacles of having to function in a society where gender roles are still quite marked and in many cases place women as subordinate to men. However, in the midst of this reality, indigenous and Ecuadorian women in general have managed to open space in the search for greater equity and prosperity for themselves and their families.

Indigenous women are an example of empowerment based on their own traditional culture, mainly thanks to artisan entrepreneurship. Indigenous crafts are recognized worldwide, as are other aspects of their culture such as their clothing, music, dances and even their paintings.

Currently, we observe within the families of artisans that women, in addition to fulfilling the role of mother, are mostly also the administrators of their homes and their workshops. Recently we were able to talk with Anita who is one of the artisans we work with. We asked her what a normal day in her life is like. While she was putting the final touches on a poncho, sighing she replied: My days are very busy. She told us that she as a mother is always aware of the feeding and education of her children. But, that she is also the administrator of her family’s workshop and she must be in charge of several processes so that everything works fine. Many times, she must move from one city to another due to her work and rely on her family to be able to take care of their children. When we spoke with more artisan women, we realized that Anita was not the only one who had all these responsibilities.

As we see, taking Anita's words Indigenous women are strong, brave, and hard-working. It is gratifying to observe that women play roles that were previously intended solely for men. This is part of a great change that is taking place worldwide in terms of gender equality and that globalization has allowed generating changes both in large metropolises and in small communities of artisans in countries such as Ecuador.

Well, women in addition to being incredible administrators are also inspiration and creators of pieces full of beauty and tradition. In the next entry, we will learn more about the meanings of the colors and patterns that are drawn, woven, and embroidered on the garments.

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