This book emerges out of a previous project on how indigenous transnational
activism sought to leverage changes in development policy and decision-
making. During that project, I carried out interviews with indigenous
women, ethnodevelopment staff members, and policy- makers and found
their viewpoints were often at odds and inspired by distinctive agendas. The
distinctiveness and complexity of indigenous women’s positioning regard-
ing gender and development policy, and ethnodevelopment policy were
forcefully brought home to me when I visited a village women’s group, gath-
ered under the iconic peak of Chimborazo volcano. I had returned to visit the
central Andes and began talking with a group of kichwa- speaking women in
Nitiluisa community about how they had or ganized a women’s group. De-
spite the fund- raising difficulties, the logistical challenges, and the uphill
task of persuading other villagers of the rightness of their endeavor, they
had, by the time I dropped in, become the proud residents and active users
of a single- story, light- filled room with tables and chairs for craft activities
and regular meetings. These Kichwa women carried out an incremental but
powerful transformation in their lives, drawing on understandings and pri-
orities forged in adversity. Inspired by the Nitiluisa group, I started to search
out and talk to elected women’s representatives from diverse strands of
Ec uador’s indigenous movements, conducting interviews with women
recently elected to a leadership role as well as historic leaders. They each
spoke vividly of how low- income women in diverse ethnic groups across the
country’s varied geographies consistently found themselves left out of projects
aimed at farmers, women, or indigenous people and the impoverishing effects
of such marginalization. Women’s representatives also spoke movingly of their
grassroots initiatives and alternative thinking— about dignity, livelihoods,
and interactions with rural spaces— that were not lifted from development
plans but emerged from women’s articulation of what they considered their
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