Abstract – Women’s reproductive rights in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador: Challenges for transforming policy into practice

Isabel Goicolea, Miguel San Sebastián, and Marianne Wulff

Health and Human Rights 10/2

Published December 2008


Despite advances made by Ecuador in developing policies on reproductive and sexual rights, implementation, and oversight remain a challenge, affecting in particular those living in the Amazon basin. This paper reports on an evaluation of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Orellana, Ecuador, the basis of which was the Health Rights of Women Assessment Instrument, which was altered to focus on government obligations, the reality of access and utilization of services, and the inequities and implementation challenges between the two. A community-based cross-sectional survey conducted in 2006 served to document the current status of SRHR. Local female field workers interviewed 2,025 women on three areas of women’s reproductive health: delivery care, family planning, and pregnancy among adolescent girls age 10–19. The results suggest a reality more dismal than that of the official information for the area. Skilled delivery care, modern contraceptive use, and wanted pregnancies were conspicuously lower among indigenous women living in rural areas. Access to reproductive health services varied between rural and urban women. These significant differences in care — amongst others documented — raise concerns over the utility of national-level data for addressing inequities. The gaps evident in the validity of available information for monitoring policies and programs, and between national policy and action reveal that much still needs to be done to realize SRHR for women in the Amazon basin, and that current accountability mechanisms are inadequate.