Ecuador: One indigenous woman’s perspective on discrimination in the health system

In the public hospital in Otavalo in Ecuador, indigenous women have seen a major change in their maternal and child health services and this has increased their trust in the system. In the past, discrimination was a major problem, and women were not allowed to use their traditional birth practices or bring their traditional birth attendants (TBAs) with them. They were not able to explain all the factors that they felt important for their children’s health. Now since the introduction of a national Vertical Birth Policy – many indigenous women traditionally give birth standing up – a Universal Health Care Policy, and the introduction of TBAs into the hospital system, indigenous women feel less discriminated against

"When I started to work in this organization we used to attend talks about our rights, about pregnant women’s rights, about the rights that the state guarantees and the right to health, that nobody can tell us off or discriminate against us … Before, I didn’t know we had rights, you even felt bad for being indigenous because there was discrimination everywhere, in education, in health … in the street they used to call us ‘indians, longas’ [perjorative terms used to insult indigenous people]. We used to say nothing but after those talks [in the organization] and the self-identification as indigenous you start seeing things more clearly and you can defend yourself. If anyone tells me off without justification I can answer back. So I wanted to deliver in hospital because we needed it for my husband’s [paternity leave] and because I wanted to help others, because there is so much injustice."

Case study taken from the 'Improving indigenous maternal and child health' chapter of MRG’s State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2013 report – focus on health

Indigenous woman, aged 30, Otavalo Public Hospital, Ecuador, 2012

Photo: Indigenous woman in Saquisili, Ecuador

Credit: cvanholder


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A vertical birth room in Otavalo, Ecuador. Credit: Ana Llamas Montoya
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Date: 05/09/2013




State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2013
Indigenous Peoples

Press Contact Information

Name: Ana Llamas Montoya

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