Alejandra: from refugee to entrepreneur

English

Alejandra is a refugee affected by the conflict that has reached her little hometown Sevilla Valle, in Colombia.  Some years ago, she discovered that the person she had spent most of her life with, had become a commander in a revolutionary group in her country.

After four years of living in an armed conflict zone, Alejandra decided to leave Sevilla Valle and cross the border with her son, as have around 60,000 Colombians now with refugee status in Ecuador.

When she arrived in Ecuador, she settled down in Cuenca, a city in the south of the country, where she found a job as a domestic worker in the house of a family who eventually accepted and supported her.  Furthermore, as soon as her son started attending school, she regained her emotional stability. After three years, they decided to move to the calmer city of Ibarra.

Once there, Alejandra met several women in the same situation, who were forced to migrate from Colombia to Ecuador and who had to bring up their children alone. Today, Alejandra and these women are members of a women´s group called “Dejando Huellas” (Leaving Footprints). The association is composed of 37 refugee women and 5 ecuatorian women in a vulnerable situation. “Dejando Huellas” has received support from the Decentralised Autonomous Government of the Province of Imbabura and other civil society organisations based in Ibarra (such as Asylum Access). Through training and motivational talks, the women of the group have been able to enhance their knowledge and skills to create entrepreneurial projects generating revenues for their families.

Alejandra manufacturing cloth dolls in Dejando Huellas

Through the Joint Migration and Development Initiative’s project “Strengthening the institutional capacities of the DAG  in the northern of Ecuador on issues regarding human mobility” and key actors in the region, the group has been able to participate in several entrepreneurial fairs and in spaces for the promotion and commercialization of their products.

Overall, the autonomous microenterprises have been very well received by the local population of Ibarra.

Furthemore, this project is supporting these entrepreneurial women to consolidate a formal and legally-recogised group named Association of the Superintendence of Popular and Supportive Economy of Ecuador[1] whose aim is to provide catering services, sale of handicrafts. In order to achieve this, they will receive technical support and various benefits such as the access to credit.

Joining “Dejando Huellas” has been the best thing that has happened to Alejandra since her arrival in Ecuador.Along with her partners, they have surpassed the difficulties of being vulnerable refugees in a foreign country.

Today, Alejandra confidently acknowledges her talents, capable of manufacturing beautiful crafts and cloth dolls. Moreover, she has become an excellent cook in the Priorato neighbohood of Ibarra, where she sells delicious bread and tasty Colombian arepas.

In addition, her son is one of the best students in his class and he has joined a group of stilt walkers in Priorato. According to Alejandra her son is “a very good boy who will always have food on the table”. Their lifes have radically changed for the better. “We have to keep fighting to survive” explained Alejandra.

In the process of strengthening her community resilience, Alejandra has not only had the opportunity to exercise her right to access to a dignified job while improving her economic situation, but also she became an agent of local development by stimulating the local economy with the other women involved in “Dejando Huellas”.

Quick Facts on the project

Country: Ecuador

Project:

Strengthening the institutional capacities of the Decentralised Autonomous Governments in the northern region of Ecuador on issues regarding human mobility –provinces of Esmeraldas, Carchi and Sucumbios.

Main partner: Decentralised Autonomous Government of the Province of Imbabura (city of Ibarra).

General objective:

Contribute to creating synergies  and developing  institutional capabilities for the Decentralised Autonomous Governments (Provincial, Municipal and Parish Entities) supporting the implementation of the Regional Territorial Plan for prevention, attention and restitution of the rights of people in mobility in the northern area of Ecuador.

Specific objectives:

(i) Articulate efforts amongst the private and public actors for the generation and implementation of the national, provincial and cantonal regulations for the identification of the legal principals governing the dynamics of human mobility and the development of public and social policies supporting migrants.

(ii) Strengthen the network of actors engaged with the protection of migrants’ rights in the northern area of Ecuador.

PDF Document: http://www.migration4development.org/sites/default/files/story-from-field/alejandra_story_englishv2_formatted.pdf

[1]The  popular and supportive economy is an economic system that enables its members to organise and develop processes of production, exchange, commercialization, funding, consumption of goods and services through relationships based on solidarity, cooperation and reciprocity, prioritizing the human well-being. 

 

Focus

Thematic area