UNHCR Assists Microcredit Projects for Sex Workers in Ecuador

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR is providing support to a microcredit project in Ecuador to help the country’s ’vulnerable’ refugees break out of poverty and exploitation.

Over the last year, the agency has been working with several organizations to set up self-reliance programmes for Colombian refugees and their hosts in Ecuador, which is home to the largest number of refugees in Latin America. Of the 53,342 recognized refugees, 73 per cent are women and children.

According to the UNHCR, sex workers are among those vulnerable groups. As per studies conducted by several UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the Ecuadorean Ministry of Health, nearly half of the Colombian refugee women who are sex workers in Ecuador’s northern border were not in the trade back in their homeland.

“Some women do not have other options because job opportunities are limited or because they do not meet the requirements. Others need a second job to support their families.”

Recognizing the problem, UNHCR worked with 21 de Septiembre, an association promoting the human rights of sex workers. With legal advice and funds from UNHCR, the association set up an organization to provide financial services to sex workers and their families in Esmeraldas’ refugee and host communities. Last year, 19 women each received an average credit of US$300.

A representative of the UNHCR in Ecuador explained that the refugee agency supported income-generating projects that benefited Colombian and Ecuadorean women, especially those who were subjected to discrimination, in order to give them a different alternative.

Source: Microfinance Focus (link opens in a new window)