The Experience of Indigenous Women in Latin America

This Sunday, August 9, is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. There are 45 million indigenous people in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), approximately 52% of whom are women according to the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre.


In Ecuador’s Chimborazo province, indigenous women work in agriculture and livestock. The income received from this work cannot sufficiently support a family, so husbands often leave their wives in search of work. Meanwhile, on the farm, the women do not have access to technology, irrigation systems, or credit facilities. Thus, working successfully and efficiently is difficult, and their young daughters often must leave school to work and help provide for the family.

To empower the women living in this area, TRF local partner Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio (FEPP) implemented a program that trains indigenous women and their families in sustainable production processes, commercialization, and nutritious Andean crops. Facilitated by this training, the women are better able to support their families through the production and sale of nutritious and marketable crops.

Indigenous women in Latin America have an experience that is important to consider for the planning, execution, and evaluation of local development projects. Among indigenous women, challenges in finding work and supporting one’s family are often compounded by gender-based discrimination and abuses. To combat these circumstances, several TRF local partners, such as FEPP, support rural indigenous women throughout LAC by offering programs on education, employment, technical training, health, and gender equity. By focusing primarily on indigenous women, these organizations affirm the value of women as community members and familial caregivers, and also incorporate the needs of indigenous groups, which face social exclusion.

Sabia Nueva Project

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed this sentiment when he stated, “The interests of the indigenous peoples must be part of the new development agenda in order for it to succeed…Together, let us recognize and celebrate the valuable and distinctive identities of indigenous peoples around the world. Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations.” It is important to remember the needs and unique identities of indigenous women in the post-2015 international development agenda and execution of local development projects. Women’s empowerment is a critical human rights issue, and the development of LAC depends on women’s progress, particularly among rural indigenous populations that face barriers to accessing resources and opportunities.

To learn more about TRF local partners that work with indigenous women, visit our Interactive Map. Additionally, look out for more content focused on women and girls as we approach the TRF Fall Gala in November.

Photos: Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio (FEPP)

By Yihemba Yikona, TRF Intern