Throughout the ages, rural women can be characterized as strong and valiant women, yet are often treated with limited rights, denied resources and opportunities due to inequality. Rural women in Ecuador face many challenges including limited access to health care, financial stability, and leadership opportunities while living amongst considerable familial issues. At Lucy in the Andes, we are working diligently to give these women a voice, so that little by little they can make their own decisions rather than routinely following societal and community expectations. Our primary goal is to arm these women with accurate information so that they can make educated decisions concerning their bodies and their lives.
We held our first workshop in August 2019 in the town of Angamarca. 180 women attended this 7-day workshop. We recently hosted a 3-day follow-up workshop in January which served two purposes. The first is to evaluate the impact of August’s workshop and to receive feedback regarding how the workshop supported these women and their communities. The second is to provide the women an opportunity to receive follow-up information and ask questions since the last time they met with Lucy’s professionals. We administered surveys and received positive comments and valuable feedback that will aid us in improving our future workshops.
We spoke with Nadia Goren, Lucy’s on-staff psychologist to discuss the achievements and feedback from the January session. “In August, the women in general were reserved and wouldn’t make eye contact with the speakers. However, in January I noticed a substantial change among the women. They were more open and confident. They spoke more and also expressed themselves more. They made eye contact. They had retained the knowledge of what they had learned in August. They showed greater interest and concentrated more. They asked many questions.”
For example, four women approached some of the psychologists at the end of January’s workshop to discuss personal problems. This gesture alone impressed Nadia greatly. She says, “Back in August, they were very timid and would have not approached the speakers afterward, especially to discuss personal issues. This alone shows increased confidence.” These women expressed sincere gratitude toward the professionals and still remain in contact with them through text messaging, continuing to ask questions and providing updates.
In addition, the medical professionals at the local medical center said between January – August 2019, they registered 6 teenage pregnancies. After August’s workshop, they saw an increase in women visiting to receive contraceptives and discuss family planning. An increase in family planning discussions is incredible, as family planning is often seen at a taboo topic in these areas. Since August, there have been no registered teenage pregnancies thus far.
In the January session, they broke out into small groups and had more personalized chats. The professionals in attendance were 3 psychologists, a doctor, a midwife, a lawyer, and Lucy founder, Eran Hayoun. Below are the main topics discussed in January’s workshop:
Many mothers admitted that they struggle in regards to how to discipline their kids. This discussion focused on the model of positive discipline. The conversation was not solely aimed at mothers but also at teenagers who attended the session because many of these adolescents share the responsibility of taking care of their younger brothers and sisters.
Sex education and healthy relationships
These two different but interrelated themes were combined into one discussion. The women expressed great interest in learning about sex education, which was pleasantly surprising given that it is a taboo topic in Ecuador, especially rural Ecuador. The topics included personal hygiene, healthy relationships, family planning, and decisions surrounding their bodies. They worked with mantras such as, “No one is allowed to touch my body without my consent” and “I have the right to decide.” They spent time talking about healthy relationships, and one by one the women began raising their hands asking about certain things that pertained to their relationships inquiring, “Is this healthy?” Some women realized unhealthy aspects of their relationships that they did not realize before.
Self-esteem and self-confidence
This discussion centered around loving yourself, recognizing your importance, and looking at yourself and identifying positive aspects. Included in this session was an exercise that was led right before the dialogue. An instructor led an activity in which the women wore boxing gloves and had to punch the air while simultaneously shouting negative things that were distressing them. This exercise allowed them to cleanse themselves of any negativity that they were carrying. The instructor believed this to be a successful activity because afterward the women were more open and felt more comfortable sharing during the discussion.
How to identify warning signs in child development
Many of the women in attendance were unfamiliar with delayed child development and believed many children, who could possibly have developmental delays, to simply be disobedient children. Many of these kids get into trouble at school and at home and are labeled “bad kids.” The psychologist leading this session worked with the woman on how to identify developmental delays, as well as how to approach these children differently so that they can perform better in school and have better relationships with their family.
At Lucy in the Andes, we realize that the potential to make a positive impact is extraordinary, and we look forward with great motivation to the continuation of these workshops throughout the Andes.
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