Panama: Ediofelina Fuentes González

I have no happy memories from my childhood.

— Ediofelina Fuentes González

In 1962, when Ediofelina Fuentes González was 12 years old, she co-founded the organization United Carrizalan Women, for Panamanian peasant women from Carrizal. They raised funds with which to pay lawyers to defend people that had been imprisoned for land occupation. At age 17, she finished her primary education. She became a peasant woman “who ironed and sewed,” and created a sewing workshop for the community. So that her fellow women could have an opportunity to study, she created a day care for their children. Thanks to her work, the community has drinking water, a school and latrines.

Ediofelina Fuentes González, known as Ilia, has separated parents. She was only one and a half years old when she was left to depend on her grandparents, who had limited resources. She became a rural worker at age 12, and, then, in 1962, she co-founded the organization United Carrizal Women. They raised funds with which to pay lawyers to defend people who, driven by misery and accused of being communists, were imprisoned for land occupation. Ediofelina created a community workshop where the women of her community could learn to sew–using sewing machines that she had obtained from Unicef. As there were so few doctors, she learned to apply injections. At age 15, she began primary school and created a day care so that other women could also have the opportunity to study. She got married two years later, on the same year that she finished school. She received her diploma while she held her first-born child in her arms. Thanks to her efforts, the Carrizal community got fresh drinking water, latrines and a school. She helped to build the school, making adobe blocks, carrying water from the river, and bringing sand from the beach. She also founded the House of Handcrafts, where women worked with natural elements. Due to this activity, the women of the community were able to improve their economy. Ilia had three children. The boy died as a young adult in an accident. Ilia fought to give a good education to her daughters. Both are teachers, the younger one is a University student. For her people, Ilia, the girl who was abandoned to the winds of fate, has been like a shining star of hope.

United Carrizalan Women