Kallpa Warmi means “power of women” in Kichwa, a Quechuan language. In Southern Ecuador, this is also the name of a women’s cooperative led by Marisol Peñaloza, a 32-year-old entrepreneur living in the community of Sayausí, a predominately indigenous rural community near Cuenca. Marisol has led two World Connect projects over the last two years. The first grant of $500 organized 25 women into a recycled art cooperative business. The second grant of $2,800 launched a catering operation specializing in traditional Ecuadoran cuisine located in Cajas National Park. The cooperative is now 42 women strong.

For the women involved, the project helped to increase their personal monthly income by 100% and they now earn on average a 50% share of their total household income. In Sayausí, men have traditionally held jobs and have been in control of domestic finances. Today, due to the efforts of Marisol and Kallpa Warmi, many women have been given the opportunity to contribute to their family and community economically, resulting in women being able to exercise more influence in local life.

Marisol with her goddaughter at the opening of her new arts and food stand near Sayusí, Ecuador.

In Ecuador, 38% of women experience domestic violence. The sociopolitical climate in rural Ecuador is less sympathetic to women who try to take control of their own lives. Violence against women is increasing in Ecuador. Within the first six months of 2017, 76 murders of women had been reported, doubling the figure of 2016. Women struggle to gain economic freedom and often suffer violence and marginalization if they attempt to develop their own path. However, in Sayausí, many of the project participants including Marisol attested to dramatic changes as their leadership and confidence grew, including less or in some cases a complete end to domestic violence.

Marisol and Peace Corps Volunteer, Alli Tolbert, at the 2017 World Connect Annual Benefit Dinner.

Today, Marisol is happily married, a successful entrepreneur, and advises other women on how to transform their own lives. Through her cooperative, Marisol has become a key figure in her community. More women come to her seeking guidance and support as her role in the community has become more prominent. Marisol is a shining example of how the power of one woman can alter the future course of an entire community. As an organization, it’s the obvious choice for us to directly invest in social entrepreneurs like Marisol. The potential of leaders like Marisol to transform their communities and our world starts with trust and investment.

We invest in locally designed and led projects that drive self-sustaining development in under-resourced areas of the world.

We invest in locally designed and led projects that drive self-sustaining development in under-resourced areas of the world.