Through Her Lens: Responding to COVID-19 in Ecuador

Did you know that approximately four in five healthcare workers around the world are women? 

Daniela Meneses

Daniela Meneses is a medical doctor living in Ecuador with almost 10 years of experience with national and international organizations working to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to healthcare. In addition to her duties as a medical doctor, Daniela works as the National Coordinator for the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP). 

In the lead up to International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) spoke to Daniela about responding to COVID-19 in her country. 

Finish this sentence, gender equality is…

Gender equality is acknowledging that all genders have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities. It is the freedom to pursue your dreams, education and lifestyle choices without discrimination. Gender equality is a fundamental right and we should all respect it. 

International Women’s Day is a celebration of every achievement, across all areas of life, that has ever been accomplished by women and girls in all of their diversity. It is a day to commemorate the inequalities that women have faced throughout history and recognize the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality.    

Tell us about how your community is responding to COVID-19. 

In my community, we have been hit really hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ecuador is probably one of the most affected countries in the South American region. There are four different regions within the country and each one has their own problems, but at the same time we share some of the same difficulties across the country. 

There are more women than men in Ecuador and yet leadership roles are still occupied by men. This pandemic has definitely showcased all of the inequalities that exist across every area of life. Working women are being affected more than men and women are also having a more difficult time accessing healthcare resources. 

We also have an election soon and the COVID-19 response has become a secondary priority to it. 

How are you advancing gender equality through your work? 

I work 24 hour shifts at the hospital. I mostly work in surgical areas and largely focus on OBGYN and urology. I work at two different clinics where I take care of in-patient wards. We also have an emergency department where we are seeing some cases of COVID-19 right now. 

Gynecology is amazing because you get to directly work on sexual and reproductive health and rights. We empower them and take a holistic approach to treatment that is not only based on physical health but also on the psychological aspects of health that may really help women.   

I have also enjoyed working with NGOs – especially those focused on advocacy. Currently, I work as the National Coordinator for the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP). We’re always working to reach the young population who may not be able to go on their own to visit a doctor. We aim to provide them with tools and resources to access healthcare services. 

How are women in your community working to achieve a more equal future during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

We have a really patriarchal society, especially in the medical system. It has always been that way and unfortunately it has been really difficult to change it. Somehow, this pandemic has amplified the work that women are doing – not only in Ecuador, but around the world. We are seeing many women who are being highlighted for their amazing work in epidemiology, public health and health policy. 

We are seeing women in roles that they haven’t taken on before. This is amazing because it is giving more opportunities to other women who work in those areas as well. In Ecuador, we actually have more women than men working in healthcare areas, but you don’t see them in high-level roles like medical directors at hospitals or the ministry of health. Little by little, we have created the necessity to advocate for more women to have access to these roles and I think that is largely thanks to the pandemic. 

This year has also showcased inequalities in access to healthcare – especially in regard to sexual and reproductive health. More organizations are advocating for these rights and access to information. This is definitely women working for women and it is one remarkable thing about the pandemic.             

Imagine investing in a feminist recovery now. What would your community look like in 2030? 

More women in leadership positions! Not only as presidents and heads of states, but occupying high-level roles in the healthcare system. I would love to see more women as directors of hospitals, the ministry of health and other organizations. I want to see more women leading research. I also want to see less of our current competitive environment. It should be about working together and uplifting each other. As women, we have to support each other in order to make progress towards gender equality.

Watch our full conversation with Daniela:


March 8, 2021