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Las Marias

Their Pluses

In Ecuador, eight in ten women suffer or have suffered in their lives sexual, physical, psychological or economic violence; and the province of Azuay has the highest rates.

In Latin America, the Inter-American Convention to prevent, sanction and erradicate violence against women (Belem do Pará) was approved in 1994 and sets out violence against women as "a demonstration of the historically unequal power relationship between women and men" which refers to the field of human rights.

The Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health in 1995 declared domestic violence as a Public Health Problem and in the same year approved the law 'violence against women and the family' (law 103); however only in 2007 by executive decree was it declared as a priority issue and State Policy.

Faced with this reality in 2001, supported by international and national instruments the centre for support to women and family "Las Marias" was created with the aim of supporting victims of violence and contributing to its eradication.

An initiative that began with the Ecuadorian NGO "Services for Alternative Development in the South (SENDAS), the vicarage of Gualaceo, the TEJEMUJERES cooperative and Human Rights.

In September 2005, professionals of the technical team from the centre decided to legally set up the organisation.

Its mission is to:

- Provide professional attention of quality and warmth to the family in the matter of domestic violence, coordinated with public and private institutions linked to the violence network;

- Inform, raise awareness, educate and promote on the matter of domestic violence;

- Promote, disseminate and control the public policy application on domestic violence and search for mechanisms for funding and sustainability.

To fulfil its mission, Las Marias has an interdisciplinary team who work together to approach the issue in the following fields: legal, medical, psychological and social. The weekly team meetings allow for follow-up and evaluation of each case for continuity or reorientation.

In the area of prevention, training processes are developed; training with schools, colleges and organised groups and awareness campaigns on key dates addressed to the entire population in coordination with the domestic violence network of Gualaceo.

With the aim of understanding the magnitude and impact on the state of women of violence, jointly with the University of Cuenca, the centre carries out research projects on the topic both at a local and provincial level.

Las Marias

Supports women and families who have been victims of domestic violence and organises preventive actions.

Andes / Azuay
Health Education Social and economic development
Kids Adolescents Young adults Adults Elderly people


March, Wenesday 8 2017

January, Friday 13 2017

Celebration of the Women Day

March, Tuesday 22 2016

A busy day for Las Marias!

In Gualaceo, Las Marias’ team and its recipients took part to the conference organised by the municipality. The theme raised was “inequality wasn’t born, it creates itself, let’s change it!” After the opening speech of the mayor of Gualaceo, a responsible of the MIES has raised the themes of gender violence, women respect, and the ministry’s efforts to make the city less chauvinist… Then a responsible of the “Sexual and reproductive rights’ table” presented the cantonal diary favourable to women.

Concerning Paute, Las Marias chose to gather its recipients for an event between themselves.  21 women met each other in the main living room of the city. Animated by Amparo, the meeting began with a relaxation therapy. Then it kept going with a reflection about women condition, based on a true fact (the murder of 2 young women in Ecuador). Finally, so as to celebrate that day as it had to be, Las Marias’ team wanted to offer a little present to all the beneficiaries. 

March, Thursday 17 2016

March, Wenesday 9 2016

2015 has been fully busy... and so will be 2016 !

February, Monday 22 2016

For Las Marias, Year 2015 has been fully busy. In addition to their participation to the great events of the year (International day of fight against women injuries on November 25th, Christmas program organised by the municipality on December 16th…) 1300 interventions have been realised by the teams of Paute and Gualaceo in 2015. The program is also already greatly filled for 2016: Worldwide day of Women on March 8th, International day of Women Health Actions in May 28th, and many more!

February, Monday 15 2016

February, Wenesday 10 2016

The foundation Las Marias celebrated the international day against violence on women

December, Friday 4 2015

On November 25th was celebrated the international day of eradication against gender violence. In Gualaceo, was organized the event called “Strengthening commitments to non-violent Gualaceo”, in which Las Marias participated.

The event started with a walk through downtown Canton streets doing activism with children, teenagers, men and women. After, an exposition event took place and a symbolic occupation of the central park. 

December, Thursday 3 2015

November, Friday 27 2015

November, Tuesday 10 2015

November, Tuesday 10 2015

Colada morada for the women of Las Marias’ Center

November, Tuesday 10 2015

On October 28th, Las Marias invited its beneficiaries to drink a “colada morada” (typical drink made with blackberries). With the women’s group and the children’s group, they realised various documents and posters to prepare the event they will organise on November 25th.

Las Marias organised a Summer Camp week in Paute!

July, Monday 20 2015


During this week, a dozen children arrived every morning to take part in manual activities or games, supported by volunteers and the social worker from the Paute office.

The team games reinforced social cohesion in the group and the manual activities helped the kids develop their creativity. The children were thus able to go back home with kites that they had made themselves!

Thanks to this summer camp week, the children were able to have something to do during the vacation and make friends with other children. The plan is to have a group of children meeting once a week during the rest of the summer in the Paute office of the Las Marias association to expand on this experience. 

Closing Days of the March Campaign of Las Marias, "Women Who Build, Women Who Fight for Their Rights"

March, Thursday 26 2015

To bring its March campaign to a close, on March 26th, 27th, and 28th Las Marias center for comprehensive care invited the group "Women of Luna" from Quito.  The women of this group organized a series of activities in the center's areas of operation:  Gualaceo, Paute, and Cuenca.  The mornings of these three days were organized around alternative therapies for women, including herbal therapy using tree tissue (gemmotherapy), massage, and music therapy.  The afternoons were devoted to a singing demonstration and a theatrical presentation.  And so, an intense month of awareness-raising for civil society and care for female victims of domestic violence came to an end.

March, Saturday 7 2015

The young people of Gualaceo join with Las Marias to take action against violence to women!

November, Tuesday 25 2014

On 25 November, following an appeal by Las Marias with the support of the municipal social action department and the Ministries of Justice, Education and Health, the streets of Gualaceo were filled with pupils demonstrating against violence against women.

The three parks of the small town were also full of young people presenting their work on violence against women which had been produced as a result of the involvement of Las Marias with their classes. The entire town became orange – the colour of the campaign against gender-related violence – and the inhabitants gradually joined in with the demonstration led by Las Marias.

In the afternoon, it was the turn of the small town of Paute, where around 30 women gathered in the premises of Las Marias to discuss gender-related violence and to create signs aimed at informing the town's inhabitants.

This day dedicated to combating violence against women is the result of the work carried out on a daily basis by the Las Marias association, particularly through the awareness workshops that it presents in schools and colleges in the region, to women and to the general public.   


Translated by Jane Davis

Las Marias celebrates International Women’s Day!

March, Saturday 8 2014

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Municipal Council for Women of Cuenca Canton organised an event on 8 March 2014 in Abdon Calderon Park, bringing together around twenty institutions and associations from Cuenca which fight for women’s rights and against gender-based violence.

Among these groups was Las Marias. Alongside the students from the Public University of Cuenca who are currently on internships in the association, the team from Las Marias leant their support to this event, which has been organised every year for the last 14 years.

The attendees, women and men from Cuenca and the surrounding area, were treated to a big day full of activities which provided them with information and increased their awareness of issues relevant to women. The information events were punctuated with dance and local music performances, both local and Latino, and there was also a dedicated space for artistic creation.

Translated by Alison Kapor

Las Marias hosts a conference on sexual and reproductive rights to honor International Women’s Day.

March, Friday 8 2013

For the team of Las Marias, International Women’s Day has always been an important event. On Friday 8th March, the association decided to present two conferences for high school students of Gualaceo and Paute in order to educate them on sexuality,  contraception and abortion.

Nearly 90 students attended the discussions on issues that are still considered taboo in Ecuador. Las Marias showcased films on the subject and also opened the floor to debate. The greatest challenge for Dr. Janneth Avila’s team was encourage students to question ideas which they take for granted regarding abortion and contraception, which are still largely perceived in a negative light.

It is a significant challenge in a country where religious morality still holds a powerful influence and where it is common for girls to become mothers at the age of 12 and 13.  Even if these conferences are not enough to change people's mentalities, at least they have allowed students to openly exchange ideas on the topic, which is progress in itself.


July, Sunday 1 2012

The centre “Las Marías”, Gualaceo, Ecuador, is a support and help centre for women, children and adolescents who are victims of violence (psychological, sexual, physical or domestic). The services provided by “Las Marías” include legal, social and psychological. Together with municipal Social Action, the Cantonal Council for Childhood and Adolescence and the Health Care Division number 5, the centre “Las Marías” organised an event on 28 May with the aim of celebrating the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. The event was focused on the distribution of information to raise awareness and mobilise the community of Gualaceo on the theme of health, specifically women’s health, a key social issue for the non-discrimination of women.

The campaign began at 10 in the morning, each institution with its informative tent on various health issues.

The “Las Marías” tent covered the issues of:

- Domestic violence, stressing that not only is it an issue in the private sphere, but it also has an effect at the public level: on our children, neighbours and institutions and that it is a public health issue.

- Health, talking to each participant about their opinion on health, spreading the message that health is NOT only physical and biological but also social, psychological and emotional, which surprised many of the participants (both men and women).

Thanks to the economic generosity of the British Embassy of Quito, “Las Marías” were able to make and distribute some informative leaflets on women’s sexual and reproductive health, as well as t-shirts with the strong message My Voice, My Decision, My Body for women. Finally, as a symbol of participation of each participant, we asked each of them to leave their handprint on a canvas, the community participating with a lot of spirit!

In total, between about 350 to 400 people attended the “health fair” in the morning: men and women, young people and boys and girls from some Gualaceo schools took part. The event came to a close  with participants making a human chain around the Central Park of Gualaceo as a final sign of awareness and lifting of the community of Gualaceo. We managed to complete a full circle around the park, showing that the mobilisation was quite successful!


8 March: In honour of International Women's Day

May, Monday 28 2012

To mark International Women's Day, Las Marias organised an event at the support centre, for about twenty women currently benefiting from the project. The day's agenda featured a variety of activities intended to help the women feel more at ease with the things they do every day, and also in their relationships with men.

After their long journey – since the majority of these women live in isolated rural areas – the day started out with a look back at how this day dedicated to women came to be established. The women were then able to get into the swing of things together with a group game and a question-discussion session. A number of themes were covered, for example the reasons for inequality between the sexes: male chauvinism, the patriarchal structure of society, acceptance of the dominative condition by men and women alike, men abusing their power, and so on. A role play game followed. The objective of the day was for the participants to understand that there's no need to fear asking for help when in need, when a situation seems to be getting out of control. Everybody, from children right up to the highest leaders, experiences moments of doubt. 


The Las Marias foundation personnel were able to get together with the women they work with to help, and celebrate the special day through education, sharing and relaxation. Through the time they shared, the women forged stronger links with one another, increased their self-confidence and benefited from the activities provided to help them. The fact of living so far away from the villages, coupled with their daily chores, means they are usually left with hardly any time for leisure.

How you can help


Non-profit association – Agreement 109 of the Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion September 12 2005. Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion (MIES)

The foundation is located in Gualaceo, region located 36 km north east of Cuenca. It is the second largest region in the Province of Azuay. Gualaceo is a small, charming mountain village, located in a valley on the edge of the Gualaceo River.

The locals want to conserve the authenticity of their culture, which is noted in their wearing of traditional clothes.
Also known as the “Garden of Azuay”, the valley benefits from a subtropical climate. It is fertile and productive region: numerous vegetables and legumes are cultivated, as well as flowers for exportation.

Gualaceo is also known in the region for its local industry: the manufacturing of shoes.

The “Las Marías” center emerged in 2001 thanks to an initiative from the Ecuadorian NGO "Services for Alternative Development of the South” (Servicios para un Desarrollo Alternativo del Sur), in collaboration with the Curate of Gualaceo, the Tejemujeres Cooperative and the Human Rights Commission.

In 2005 it obtained the legal status of an organization.

From 2006, the work of the association has been widely recognized by public institutions and the general public, which has resulted in cooperation agreements allowing their work to continue.

In 2012, their second office, located in Paute, opened, and in 2013 an office in Cuenca was set up.

Benigno Vásquez y Héroes del 41, GUALACEO-AZUAY


Legal Representative of the center: Marco Ávila (593) 984822979
Administration Coordinator: Carlos Paredes (593) 990169327

The founder of the association, Janneth Ávila, is in charge of the technical coordination of the Center and the team. She continuously trains her team, made up of professionals specialized in different fields, to provide high quality aid and assistance to victims.

To promote the exercise of the right to a life free from violence, specifically against women, children and adolescents, through the creation of new forms of relationships based on gender equality, and respect for Human Rights.

1. To provide high quality professional care and assistance to families suffering from domestic abuse, coordinating with public and private institutions associated with the violence network.

2. To study and investigate the situation of domestic violence and incidences against women within their environment.

3. To promote a culture free from violence (promotions, distribution, awareness).

4. To promote the participation of citizens and to investigate the application of public policies through the work network at a local, regional, national and international level.

1. Comprehensive specialist care for persons living with violence

The Women’s and Family Support Center “Las Marías” is part of the National Network of Centers for the Care of Victims of Violence in Ecuador, and adheres to a Care Model that was collectively established in 2010.

The following is established in the Care Model:
-Care as a law
-Ethic exercise of the professional
-Protection of integrity and respect for the rights of women.

“Las Marias” has the following principles of care: High quality service, Prevention (reduce risk levels and vulnerability), Participation, Protection and safety, Confidentiality and privacy.

Care begins with a welcome meeting, during which the general state of the person and the risk level which they are facing is evaluated, in order to adopt the necessary care methods.

In emergency situations, a person who has suffered violence will receive psychological treatment, medical assistance, immediate social and/or legal intervention.

If it is not an emergency situation, the person will receive individual care from the corresponding department, and comprehensive care, which may require inter-institutional coordination.

The interdisciplinary team carries out follow up and additional contact, in order to guarantee "...continuation, justice, emotional recuperation, personal and psychological development, which contribute to overcoming the damages caused after suffering from violent events" and give closure to the process.

2. Studies and Research

As one of the objectives is to study and investigate the situation of domestic violence and incidences against women within their environment, the Women’s Support Center Las Marías began coordinated works with the University of Cuenca, specifically with the Research Department (DIUC) in 2006.
Thus, the part of the project Concepts, actions and practices of domestic violence in the regions of Cuenca and Gualaceo was formed in 2006 and seven cooperation agreements with the University of Cuenca were signed in November 2009 for the execution of the following research projects:
-“Femicide as a mortal expression resulting from violence against women”
(Set USD 16,608.00. Report approved September 19 2012).
Two articles published in:
*Maskana magazine: “Femicide the mortal expression resulting from violence against women”
*Magazine for the Faculty of Medicinal Science (no.2): “Femicide: a dark reality.”

-“Management of High Blood Pressure from Care Service in Area 2 of Health: Miraflores, of the Province of Azuay".
(Set USD 20,160.00. Report approved March 6 2012).

-“Educational performance and its correlation with family management of children who attend education centers for career practices for Social Work and Family Orientation of the University of Cuenca”
(Set USD 20,844.00. Report approved March 6 2012).

-“Flower mycology and their toxigenic power in industrialized rice that the population of Azuay most certainly consumes”
(Set USD 2,976.00. Report approved July 30 2012).

-“Comparative study between modified active management and active management from birth in pregnant women in Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital of the Town of Cuenca”
(Set USD 14.280,00. Report approved October 31 2011).

-“Study of the Vertical Part practiced by traditional midwives and identification of protection factors and risks. Cuenca Region”
(Set USD 4,296.00. Report approved October 31 2011).

-“Comparison between the PCR with Urea Test and the Histology of infections by Helicobacter Pylori in patients with dyspepsia. Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital”.
(Set USD 8,988.00. Report approved February 27 2013.)

These seven projects were approved by Academic Par assigned by the DIUC.

In addition to these projects, in 2013 the Women’s Support Center Las Mariás participated in the research project “Features of the care system for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Azuay 2013” executed by the Human Sexuality of the Program Project – VLIR of the University of Cuenca.

Thanks to this collaboration with the University of Cuenca, since 2011 Las Marías has been considered as a place for the realization of research for undergraduate studies and postgraduate thesis works for students from the Faculty of Medicinal Sciences of the University of Cuenca;
-Masters Thesis on Health Research
-Nursing research works
-Medicine research works

Strengthened by this collaboration with the University of Cuenca, the Women’s Support Center Las Marías is in the process of working with other organizations and universities.

Since 2013, inter-institutional cooperation works have begun in the research field with the Network for high level Scientific Research GRAAL (Research Group for America and Latin America), with offices in fifteen Latin American universities and research centers. In the same year, the Center became incorporated as part of GRAAL-Ecuador.

The objective of this cooperation is to give high methodological rigor support, at the execution of research programs and training courses in the research field, as well as at the development of inter-institutional and multi-disciplinary research.

The Women’s Support Center “Las Marías” acts as manager of GRAAL – Ecuador (which forms part of the Central University of Ecuador, the National University of Loja, the International University of Ecuador; as well as the Municipal Secretary of Health for the Metropolitan District of Quito) and continuously receives research and training projects.

The course offered by the network may be viewed online:

The beneficiaries of the center are mainly women, children and adolescents: the accusers are aged between 15 and 90 years old, the victims aged from one month to 90 years old, and the attackers between 15 and 80 years old.

The Center mainly attends to persons with little income, difficulties in accessing physical or mental health services and also the legal service necessary to be able to end the violence that they are suffering.

The services of Las Marías are aimed at the residents of Gualaceo (eight parishes), and also those from the neighboring regions of Paute, Chordeleg, Sigsig and Cuenca.

During 2013 care was provided for 1658 victims:
-67% of the persons cared for were female, from those recently born to those of 85 years of age.
-33% of the persons cared for were male, children and adolescents.
-97% of cases, the attacker was male:
--In 55.5% of cases, the attacker was the father;
--In 39.6% of cases, the attacker was the partner;
--In 89% of cases,the violence was physical, psychological or patrimonial (sexual violence made up 11% of the cases).