The Children of Ecuador Foundation (CEF) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help single mothers in Pascuales, a suburb of Guayaquil in the south of Ecuador. Guayaquil has more than 3 million inhabitants and its suburbs are made up of some of the poorest areas of the country.
The Foundation has supported more than 4,000 women through its women’s center (Centro de Mujeres Madre Rosalia). It has also helped more than 1,500 children continue their education through a sponsorship program that allows them to go from daycare all the way through to university.
The CEF was established in 2002, following the establishment of a Mission of the Misericordia Sisters of Montreal, in a community located in a suburb of Guayaquil, Ecuador, whose 80,000 inhabitants live in a degree of poverty unthinkable in Quebec.
The goal of the Mission, founded by the four Misericordia Sisters of Montreal, is to help the single mothers of Pascuales and their children by providing them with various services adapted to their needs and precarious situations, through a women’s training center and a day-care center for their children.
While the services are not free, they are offered at significantly reduced costs. These low costs preserve the dignity of those who use the services, make the users accountable, and facilitate the accessibility of these important services. It is, therefore, essential to find a consistent stream of funding to ensure the continuous delivery of quality services.
From this need the Children of Ecuador Foundation was founded, making considerable efforts to raise the necessary funds for the operation of the two Centers.
In 2011, after 14 years of commitment, the three founding Sisters who were at the Pascuales Mission returned to Quebec. The Foundation continues to finance the activities of the Mission, now the Fundación de Asistencia Social Misión Rosalia Cadrón, a non-profit organization responsible for a women’s center and a daycare center. On site, a local board of directors and local employees took over day-to-day operations and continue managing the activities. The leadership of the Institute of the Misericordia Sisters also continues to be involved with the Foundation.
SITUATION IN ECUADOR
The main objective of the Children of Ecuador Foundation (CEF) and the Fundación de Asistencia Social Misión Rosalia Cadrón (FASMRC) is to provide assistance to single mothers and their children in the suburb of Pascuales. In Pascuales, a large number of single mothers live in difficult situations due to their young age, lack of education, and the fact that they are alone in supporting their family. We will now give an insight into the situation that faces single mothers in Ecuador.
In Ecuador, the number of teenage mothers (15-19 years old) has not stopped increasing in the past few years. Based on statistics from the National Institute of Statistics of Statistics (INEC) in Ecuador, in 2014, the country had the third highest rate of teenage mothers in Latin America. In 2011, out of all the women who had given birth in Ecuador, 22% of them were aged between 15 and 19 years. In addition, more than 55% of these teenage mothers in Ecuador could be found in the coastal region of the country, which includes the region of Guayas (INEC. 2011). This situation can be explained notably by the significant poverty in this region, lack of educational opportunities for women, and difficult social and family situations. Often, after an undesired pregnancy, young women can be subject to social pressure to marry and have other children. “In countries with low to medium revenue, more than 30% of young women are married before age 18 and close to 14% before the age of 15” (OMS. 2014). Teenage pregnancies are the second leading cause of death for teenagers (OMS. 2014). Out of all the teenage mothers in Ecuador, 20% of them are single and the majority are part of the non-working population.
Close to 5% of mothers in the Guayas region are single (INEC. 2010). This renders their situation and that of their families more precarious, as the time that these mothers have to take care of their children takes away from their opportunities to make money and support their family. Out of all the single mothers, 8% of them are illiterate and only 18% of them have degrees in higher education. It is also important to note that out of all the single mothers in Guayas, 37% are in the age range of 17 to 20 years old (INEC. 2010).
Upon reading this information, we can better appreciate the importance of the primary mission of the CEF which is to help support single mothers. The CEF provides them with resources to become independent through the establishment of the center for women, a nursery, and a scholarship program for their children.