Alejandra: from refugee to entrepreneur
- Led by UNDP in partnership with IOM, ITC-ILO, UN Women, UNHCR, UNITAR and UNFPA, with funding from the European Commission and the Swiss Agency for Development, the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI), works to maximize the potential of migration for local development.
- JMDI is currently carrying out projects across 8 countries - Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Morocco, Nepal, Philippines, Senegal and Tunisia.
Alejandra is a refugee affected by the conflict that has reached her little hometown Sevilla Valle, in Colombia. 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 Ecuador to Colombia 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 Ecuadorian 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.
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.
Furthermore, this project is supporting entrepreneurial women to consolidate a formal and legally-recognized group named Association of the Superintendence of Popular and Supportive Economy of Ecuador 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 neighborhood of Ibarra, where she sells delicious bread and tasty Colombian arepas.
In addition, her son is one of the best students in the 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 lives 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 a dignified job while improving her economic situation, but also contributes to local development by stimulating the local economy with the other women involved in “Dejando Huellas”.