Lynn Curtis, ProLiteracy’s international programs advisor, recently traveled to Quito, Ecuador as one of 100 international representatives invited to observe the state/provincial elections held February 23, 2014. The National Electoral Council invited individuals representing various governmental and non-governmental institutions to participate in the electoral process to ensure a transparent and fair election. Observers traveled to all 24 provinces in the country and monitored the voting process, ballot counting, and election results. Throughout his time in Ecuador, Curtis took notes about his experiences while observing the electoral process in Ecuador:
“The training was a deep dive into all the mechanics of voting and democratic processes in Ecuador,” says Curtis. “With delegations from all over the world, it was quite an impressive gathering. The National Electoral Council worked really hard to make sure the electoral process was transparent, fair, and inclusive.”
Curtis was selected to observe voters in the Napo province of Ecuador, which is the Amazon region. ProLiteracy has supported literacy projects in the past in this region; the majority of people who live in this province are indigenous and many of them have little access to education as they live in rural areas. The schools that do exist are often poorly funded and living conditions are challenging with intermittent access to electricity and running water.
“In Napo, our team went to 11 precincts including about 90 polling stations and saw thousands of voters,” says Curtis. “Lots of voters had to sign in with their fingerprints because they couldn’t read. At the end of the day, the local polling stations tallied up votes and had a counting ceremony with 10 guards in riot gear, and closed the ceremony by signing the national anthem. Democracy is kind of a miracle.”
In addition to being a participant on the delegation of International Observers, Curtis also presented a proposal to the National Electoral Council regarding the possibility of incorporating an adult literacy component in certain provinces where there is limited access to education programs.
The proposed pilot project would include the development of literacy training and materials focused on the democratic process, and would enable marginalized populations, including indigenous communities, women, and people with disabilities, to participate more actively in elections and community development. ProLiteracy recognizes the importance of literacy in any community. We believe education is the key to making informed decisions, such as voting for the right candidate. Through literacy, citizens can participate in democracy and civic engagement, and take part in shaping their future.