Source: Joan Hanawi


By joan_hanawi | July 1, 2015
Marcelina is the president of a small Kichwa community comprised of approximately two hundred people. The Kichwa people, one of the indigenous groups found in Ecuador, still hold strongly to the idea of supporting one another collectively. Working in mingas, or group work, is not only encouraged within the community, but expected.

Every Wednesday, Marcelina organizes everyone to complete a minga that is centered around the needs of the community. She has planned mingas that work to repair damaged fences, harvest crops and install tubing for a new water system. Additionally, Marcelina has reached out to sources outside of the community to win funding to construct new projects. Her work has helped to form partnerships with outside foundations, such as the Amazon Partnerships Foundation and the local municipal government, as well as add new contributions to the community, including the new meeting hall and playing field.

The election of Marcelina as president depicts the fascinating phenomenon of empowered women in these indigenous communities. Once she sees a need, she works to meet it, and her confidence and determination have encouraged others to do the same. For the first time in years, community members share that not only are the elders of the community involved in group activities, but the younger boys and girls as well. Throughout her presidency, the community has observed a reduced number of disputes, increased community participation, and improved community facilities.

The Kichwa people have a specific phrase for women like Marcelina who are revolutionizing the social hierarchies in parts of the Ecuadorian Amazon—sinchi warmi, or "strong women."