Re-writing women’s role models in Latin America

Written by Clarissa Rios Rojas, founder and Director of Ekpapalek and Ekpapalek Women (Ekpapalek Mujeres)

The name Ekpa’palek is taken from an indigenous language called “Shiwilu” from the Peruvian jungle and means ‘to help a person walking.’ekpapalek

There is a big problem in Latin America, which is the lack of resources (money), knowledge and opportunities for professional development. In order to find a solution to this problem, I launched a non-profit called Ekpapalek last year. Our mission is to empower Latin students through free programs that promote their professional development and in that way contribute to the social and economic development of Latin American countries.

empowering latinx

(Empowering Latin students – Professional development in your hands)

One of those programs is called ‘Ekpapalek Women’ and focuses on empowering Latin American women by re-writing the current women’s role models. We think that:

“You can’t become what you can’t see.”

Hence, we bring a series of talks and workshops about women economic empowerment to secondary schools and institutions in LatinAmerica. Our events are presented entirely by professional women so the attendees can see and interact with their mentors, which we aim to become their new role models.

ekpapalek team

Our team is composed of highly trained and experience professional women: Mariella (Molecular Biologist), Enma (Medical Doctor), Carmen (Professor at University), Blanca (Acuiculture Engineer) and I (Molecular Biologist). We are committed to share and teach from our experiences during our academic journey (successes and obstacles) and in that way motivate girls to become agents of change or “changemakers” in their communities.

mariella STEM

(Mariella talking about how she become a woman in STEM)

We also talk about the benefits of becoming an economical empowered women and invite them to work towards the empowerment of more women through the creation of “women’s collectives” so they can meet and talk about the status of women in their community.

Our workshops aim to awaken their curiosity, their dreams of independence and ideas of entrepreneurship. Depending on the community’s need, we offer the following workshops:

– Mini business with ornamental plants. (We aim to create entrepreneurs)

– Health and sexual education (special attention on gender violence, how to recognize it and denounce it)

– How to build a movement of women’s empowerment (Women collectives)

– Women’s Economic Empowerment presentations for universities, institutions and organizations.

emma school of nurses

(Emma giving a Women’s Economic Empowerment presentation to the school of nursing in Peru)

Using a series of talks and workshops presented by professional women we aim to empower women by igniting young girl’s professional curiosity and desire to venture to new horizons of personal development.


(Attendees posing with the certificates given by Ekpapalek Mujeres)

Also, we are very active online by writing articles about female empowerment on our blog and also by creating online campaigns where we promote awareness about gender equality. For example, in order to open an honest discussion about the parenthood roles in Latin America, we decided to launch the campaign #LatinFamilies2016. With this campaign we aim to show a realistic visual representation of Latin American parenthood in 2016. We collect pictures of fathers who enjoy great relationships with their children by spending more time with them and in turn we also show mothers that spend time working while parenting. We think that these images must be accessible and easily disseminated so that everyone can get inspired.


(Jorge Reyes, pictured above, is Peruvian and a lawyer. Jorge shares parenthood roles with his wife Yhara, who is a doctor, by finding a balance between the time they spend in their own careers. Jorge quit one of his jobs in order to take care of the children while Yhara finished her thesis and got the degree of a Medical Surgeon. They currently have two children and both accommodate their work schedules so they both can provide the best care for their children and continue the development of their careers.)

Please visit us at:

– Website:

(If you use Chrome you can “translate page” to read it in English)

– Video (Spanish):

Clarissa Rios is from Peru and is the Founder and Director of Ekpapalek, a project that seeks to empower Latin students promoting their professional development, and is also the Director of Ekpapalek Mujeres. Additionally, she is one of the current UN Empower Women Global Champions. She is involved in Women in Technology, Women International League for Peace and Freedom, Empower Women, Word Pulse, Latinas Think Big, and others.