Fighting for Youth Rights and Gender Equality as an Indigenous Teen in Ecuador

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Published

Article published in The Funambulist 26 (November-December 2019) Kids of the World, Unite! Click here to access the rest of the issue.

My name is Erika, I am a young Indigenous Ecuadorian, an architecture student and an activist for gender parity. I am from a community where cattle raising and agriculture are the biggest sources of income for families, and where a girl, in prior times, only expected to grow up and be a good wife. Starting at eight years old, I was sponsored by Plan Internacional Ecuador (International Plan Ecuador) and it is there, when I got involved in their programs, that I acquired the knowledge that allows me and will allow me to reach the objectives I have set for myself. It was they who discovered and allowed me to turn into the person that I am together with my parents, giving me opportunities I perhaps thought were lost. They taught me to conquer obstacles in any realm, to clearly express what I felt, and to have my rights and the rights of many children and teenagers within my community be respected.

In 2015 I was a youth ambassador, I travelled to the United States for an exchange, and upon my return, I implemented a community project. Right now, I am part of the Becas Universitarias (University Scholarships) project, organized by the Consejo Asesor Juvenil (Youth Advising Council) of Plan Internacional, and I am part of the Consejo Consultivo (Consulting Board) of young people in my district. I am part of the group behind Movimiento Por Ser Niña (To Be A Girl Movement) and, also, I am part of the Global Young Influencers Group. The main objective of participating in these organizing spaces is to speak about and promote gender parity to break the stereotypes over being a man or a woman and to recognize that our capacities, opportunities, and duties must go hand in hand in order to build a just and equitable society.

As part of my activism, I have led campaigns, fairs, congresses, workshops, and encounters with groups of boys and girls in the community, the district, and the country, in order to strengthen their knowledges, leadership abilities, and empowerment in creative and constructive ways. In the same way, and in the context of the Day of the Girl, I participated in the Tomas de Poder (Power Takeovers) in which we demonstrated, as girls, teenagers, and young Indigenous women, that we have the same capacities to assume a high position in the political, economic, social, and cultural spheres within our district, province, country, and in the world. Those of us who participate in the power takeovers are role models to many girls who we represent in our communities and we want to demonstrate to society that we have the right to be taken into account by the authorities and that it is necessary that they commit themselves to break the boundaries that do not let all of us participate in those spaces.

I have realized social mobilization actions for gender rights, and above all for gender parity in my community and in nine other communities nearby. These communities belong to a second degree organization made of approximately 300 households led by men and women.This organization implements projects of great scale that benefit all their communities in their production, cattle raising activities, and intellectual endeavors.