Ecuador: Closing the credit gap for women entrepreneurs

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A sound legal framework with notable outcomes on land ownership

Women now constitute 51 percent of the landowner population in Ecuador and own 48 percent of the total land wealth.

Source: The World Bank

The eleventh Article of Ecuador's Constitution establishes the equality of "all persons" and bears broadly on the areas under investigation here. As the second paragraph of Article 11 states:

"All persons are equal and shall enjoy the same rights, duties and opportunities. No one shall be discriminated against for reasons of … sex [or] gender identity … All forms of discrimination are punishable by law."

Beyond this Article, the Ecuadorian Constitution also requires the government to adopt affirmative action measures to promote real equality of individuals in a situation of inequality. Moreover, Ecuador's Labor Code and its predominant marital regime reflect an encompassing commitment to women's economic agency, while the Ecuadorian Commercial Code makes no differentiation between men and women.

Ecuador's Labor Code protects women from discrimination in pay, and provides protections in the case of pregnancy, childbirth, child care and breastfeeding. Women are entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave; the law prohibits firing pregnant women unless for a cause unrelated to the pregnancy. Even more broadly, the Labor Code requires employers to hire a minimum percentage of women.

The predominant marital arrangement largely protects women's economic agency and ensures a condition of equality with men. Ecuador has a community property marital regime (régimen de sociedad conyugal) that places equivalent restrictions on men and women in requiring that they obtain approval from the other spouse for certain actions affecting collectively held property. For instance, though a married woman (or man) can independently enter into contracts, any agreement for the disposal of real estate, motor vehicles or equity interests in any company or corporation that are part of the community property must be executed by both spouses or, if executed by one spouse, approved by the other spouse, and this approval must be documented by a public deed.

Land rights (and reforms) present another area in which Ecuador has concertedly seen to the enfranchisement of women, in contrast to other jurisdictions examined in this study. Historically, women accounted for 56 percent of all rural-to-urban migrants in the 1960s and 50 percent in the 1970s.21 During this period, Ecuador underwent significant land reforms that fundamentally altered its agrarian structure by promoting greater gender parity in land inheritance and, therefore, land ownership. Notably, women now constitute 51 percent of the landowner population in Ecuador and own 48 percent of the total land wealth.22 The Government of Ecuador also has programs to encourage property ownership, including by providing subsidies and bank credit, though it should be emphasized that none of those programs are directed toward women specifically.23

Our research revealed one point of concern related to equal access to justice. Though the law makes no distinction between women and men with respect to the right to bring contract disputes and other disputes before a court of law or tribunal, it appears that in practice this is not the case for many Ecuadorian women, particularly for indigenous women.24



21—See World Bank. 2015. "Women, Business, and the Law 2016: Getting to Equal." Washington, DC: World Bank, Pg. 118, UN Women, "Gender, Remittances, and Asset Accumulation in Ecuador and Ghana", World Bank. 2000. Ecuador Gender Review: Issues and Recommendations, Pg. 42 – 44 and Deere, "Women's Land Ownership and Participation in Agricultural Decision-making: Evidence from Ecuador, Ghana, and Karnataka, India", Pg. 2.
24—Article 11 of the Constitution of Ecuador and Manuela L. Picq, "Between the Dock and a Hard Place: Hazards and Opportunities of Legal Pluralism for Indigenous Women in Ecuador," 54 Lat. Am. Pol. & Soc'y (2012).


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