Ecuadorian Women Earned Dignity without SlutWalks

Hard-Fought Achievements Demonstrate Equality, Not Handouts and Privileges

Young women pay tribute to Dora de Ampuero (center-left), who devoted 25 years of her life to leading Ecuador's first policy institute to research free enterprise and economic prosperity.

Young women pay tribute to Dora de Ampuero (center-left), who devoted 25 years of her life to leading Ecuador's first policy institute to research free enterprise and economic prosperity. (IEEP)

What a surprise, US magazine Teen Vogue has put out a skewed piece on feminist activism in Ecuador. With a personal-story narrative and a romantic view of socialism, the writer tells the struggle of select women for inclusion and elevates their legacy. However, the real history of Ecuadorian female suffrage and equal dignity grew from well beyond political and social activism.

The article notes the involvement of a writer who was the first congresswoman of the Andean country, Nela Martínez, and of the leader and indigenous-rights activist, Dolores Cacuango. Then she quotes Martínez — “Women are the memory of time wasted and reconquered” — and praises the efforts of the SlutWalk movement in Ecuador.

The truth is that female empowerment and respect for women’s rights were not the exclusive domain of a particular ideology nor the result of our tortured constitutional history. They are not a social issue that distinguishes the current progressive or conservative political agendas, even though the author refers to gender and racial inclusion as a victory of the Ecuadorian feminist movement.

Ecuadorian women en masse have established their path to liberty and well-deserved rights from their ambitions and by proving themselves with their accomplishments. Nela Martínez and Dolores Cacuango were impressive women who desired to be political leaders, and they achieved their goal. Yet in Ecuadorian history, just as throughout the world, they were far from alone in challenging the prevailing paradigms.

Rosa Cabeza enrolled for secondary education in one of the best high schools in the country in 1903, and until then the institution had only received male students. In the same vein, María Zuñiga was the first woman to complete a medical degree in Ecuador. Hermelinda Urvina got her aviation license in 1932, becoming the first female pilot of South America. Further, countless Ecuadorian women have shifted social frameworks within their families and have shaped a more inclusive and modern society.

Currently, women and other social groups keep facing social threats and problems. Discrimination and sexual violence, for example, remain, and both political authorities and members of the civil society must tackle them. The SlutWalk (marcha de las putas), however, is an event at which some organizations demand not equality but more state-granted privileges.

Their efforts usually increase social tension, instead of promoting dialogue and compromise among the diverse sectors of the country for sustainable solutions. Ecuadorian women’s history can teach us all from family anecdotes and from memories of successful women that realized their desires with persistence and self-reliance. Eventually, female empowerment and respect for women’s rights have emerged within the Ecuadorian home, a key and symbolic element in the country’s culture and background.

Paz Gómez

Paz Gómez

Paz Gómez is the Antigua Report policy analyst. She is cofounder and academic coordinator of Libre Razón, a liberal think tank in Quito, Ecuador. She holds a bachelor's degree in international relations and political science from San Francisco University of Quito, with a minor in translation. Follow @PazenLibertad.

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