Living positively in Ecuador

Mar 8, 2009


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UNDP's work in women's empowerment


UNDP staff about the challenges that women face in the following areas:


A group of assistants help HIV/AIDS workshop promoters at an event in Ecuador.
Photo: UNDP Ecuador
In Ecuador, about 50,000 women with HIV are part of an active network that seeks to educate individuals and strategic sectors about the epidemic. The initiative began with a workshop for 400 female leaders who were trained to raise awareness about prevention of and response to this disease, as well as how to care for those afflicted with it. The training highlighted the importance of empowering women so that they are in a position to lead lives that are happy, dignified and free from discrimination and stigma.
UNDP in Ecuador and the Ecuadorian Coalition for Individuals Living with HIV zeroed in on the lack of motivation and knowledge concerning the epidemic among people living with HIV/AIDS. The solution was to place individuals right at the forefront of the response—and to make women the agents of change.
A number of workshops were subsequently created, each designed for a different sector — university, business world, trade unions, and local government — and involving individuals living with HIV.  These classes included theory and practice, ranging from the scientific management of information to lessons in how to speak in public and conduct workshops.
Carmen Pozo, currently the Secretary and Accounting Officer of the Ecuadorian Coalition for Individuals Living with HIV/AIDS, remembers her experience:
“Preparation in workshop training for outreach personnel dealing with HIV/AIDS has been an enormous challenge because it is very difficult to get information out in the open, as such information remains a taboo for a great many people.  So it is quite an exhausting undertaking in personal terms. But I perceived that I had a significant role to play in all of this. I saw, at that time, that my role was to become an instigator of change for all those people who were around me. My first goal was to reach out to my own family, neighbours and friends. To this end when I organized my workshop in my home, I really felt that I was making myself useful not only for my community but for the whole of society. The most striking result was that “my people” understood that to be HIV positive does not mean that you are worthless or that you belong to a kind of underclass when compared with others. We want there to be an even greater amount of information, and an ever-increasing respect for those who are HIV positive.
“Another very interesting experience for me was that of working with sex workers, women who are truly wonderful human beings and who are in great need of information about the subject of HIV/AIDS.  This really is a pressing need because they are especially vulnerable given the nature of their work. These women really are in the front line when it comes to preventing this epidemic.
“Now, as an official outreach officer, I can say that this entire exercise has been a process of bolstering the personal and professional capacities of all those women who have participated in workshops and that are now part of the network. Thanks to this network, many of us have become empowered. It is our role to strengthen participation by Women Living with HIV/AIDS in our country—an undertaking that has become inextricably bound up with the establishment of these workshops in Ecuador.”

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