After reporting the murders of her two brothers in Colombia, Isabel began receiving targeted death threats and was forced to flee her country. The single mother of three, she traveled to Ecuador alone, unsure of how she would survive, let alone support her family.
In Ecuador, Isabel found work as a housekeeper, a job that lasted for three years before her employer moved to another city. In her next job at a small restaurant, Isabel faced constant verbal abuse and the employer refused to pay her in full. Eventually, the company went bankrupt and Isabel’s job search began again. To improve her odds, she joined the Association for Paid Homeworkers, where she first heard about Asylum Access Ecuador (AAE).
Isabel found it hard to access employment for two main reasons: she was undocumented, and she faced discrimination because she was Colombian. She knew that if she could at least get legal status, her chances for finding work would improve.
At AAE, Isabel was informed on her rights and she and AAE volunteer legal advocates began working on her documents. She started attending Encuentros de Mujeres, monthly women’s meetings that provide safe haven and emotional support to refugee women.
Through these women’s groups, Isabel began to feel more motivated and supported through her newfound family. She learned how to dedicate some time to her own well being by meeting with others who made her feel understood and safe. She acquired new skills, like self-defense and chocolate making, and has been empowered to speak her voice, recently sharing her experience with others at an event for refugee women in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
“In the women’s groups, I de-stress and open up. I listen to other experiences and feel like I’m part of a family instead of feeling isolated from the world.”
Since approaching AAE, Isabel has obtained legal status, as well as that of her children, who eventually relocated to Ecuador to reunite with their mother. AAE also worked with her employer to formalize her new job with a contract that will ensure Isabel’s access to the Ecuadorian public social security services.
Written by Communications Officer Sandra ten Zijthoff