Words that Heal



By: Wambra Medio Digital Comunitario 

 In partnership with Belen Febres-Cordero and the women who participated in the creation of this series




English version published on December 13, 2021



Caresses are healers,

 Songs are nurses,

 Hugs are great doctors. 

Fernando Chávez, Ecuadorian singer-songwriter


Well-being and health are universal experiences, but our understandings and definitions of these terms are not. Far from remaining static, they shift based on the context, epoch, and geographic location where they are formulated. The different meanings that we give to these concepts are crucial because they determine, to a great extent, the steps that we take to achieve them in practice.

There are multiple theoretical models that aim to explain what well-being and health are, and how to attain them. While several of these models exist simultaneously, just a few become dominant.

Today’s best-known models place emphasis on economic growth, technological advancement, individuality, reason, and objectivity. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that these ways of approaching well-being and health have limitations. They do not always adequately respond to the specific realities and priorities of each context, and they rarely include the different perspectives of the people who live in each setting. Hence, paradoxically, this global crisis has made the need for novel, more situated ways to address well-being and health more apparent than ever.

Considering this urgent demand, this journalistic series of feature stories explores alternative approaches to well-being and health. It does so by bringing together the voices of 59 Ecuadorian women who participated in its collective creation.

Those of us who share our experiences in this series come from diverse paths of life. The youngest one of us is 19 years old; the oldest, 71. We self-identify as Afro-Ecuadorian, Black, Indigenous or Runas, Montubias, and Mestizas. Our backgrounds and territories are different as well. In fact, we have roots in 17 of the 24 provinces of Ecuador and three of the country’s four regions: the Coast, the Highlands, and the Amazon Rainforest. We all speak Spanish, but for some of us, our mother tongue is one of the ancestral languages of Ecuador. Yet, we have one thing in common: we are all first- and second-generation internal migrant women in Ecuador, as either ourselves or our families migrated to the capital city of Quito from other parts of the country.

This series contains three feature articles, and a graphic story shared on social media. The first article narrates the current dominant understandings of well-being and health and explains the importance of redefining these concepts from other perspectives. The second article describes different ways of considering well-being and health that go beyond the best-known models. These approaches emerge from the knowledges and practices of various ancestral Peoples and Nationalities currently living in Ecuador. The third article and the graphic story share some of the sensations, experiences, and understandings of well-being and health of those of us who participated in the creation of this series.

Here, we do not consider well-being and health only with our minds. We also include the wisdom we carry in our bodies, senses, emotions, memories, intuitions, spiritualities, and affects. In addition, we reflect on our daily experiences as well as the spaces that we inhabit in our everyday lives, and the teachings of our ancestors. By doing so, we find avenues towards well-being that have been barely explored before, if at all.

With the stories, experiences, and perspectives that we share in this series, we extend our invitation to you, the reader, to join us so that we can rediscover ourselves in each other’s words and worlds. Our deepest hope is that, together, we can broaden and re-imagine how we envision well-being, health, and life as a whole.

The Reasons Behind Words that Heal

Existing dominant theoretical models of well-being and health focus on economic growth, technological advancement, individuality, reason, and objectivity. While these models offer important contributions, they also have limitations. Listening to voices that have not always been sufficiently heard before, such as those of women and migrants, can provide new and complementing perspectives. Read more

With Health in our Hands

Ancestral Peoples and Nationalities in Ecuador often address well-being and health differently and more comprehensively than other approaches. In addition to the physiological field, they include elements of nature and the environment. They also take into account the relational, emotional, spiritual, and affective components of life, illness, and healing. Experts advocate for a true convergence of knowledge and skills that include the contributions of traditional wisdoms and practices. Read more

History is Written in Plurality

This collective article gathers the voices of the 59 women who participated in the creation of this series. Together, we uncover different ways of experiencing, feeling, and defining well-being and health, as well as their relation to how we interact with ourselves, others, nature, and all aspects of life, including death. This exploration raises new questions, and we invite readers to join us in the shared pursuit of alternative avenues towards well-being, health, and a way of life that embraces diversity and all it has to offer. Read more

How Did We Do It?

Those of us who participated in the creation of this series are very different from each other in multiple ways. Yet, we have something in common: we are all women who came to Quito from other parts of Ecuador, or we were born in Quito, but our families migrated to the capital city from diverse places inside the country. As such, this series includes the voices of 59 women between the ages of 19 and 71 who have roots in 17 of the 24 provinces of Ecuador and three of the country’s four regions. The convergence of people with such diverse backgrounds allowed us to assemble an incredible array of lived experiences and perspectives. Here, we narrate the enriching process we embarked on to share, collect, and express our heterogenous stories and points of view. Read more