In a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, El Salvador is cited as having one of the top rates of violence in the region, with a disproportionate amount of violence aimed at women and girls. Since many girls begin working at a young age, they are vulnerable to abuse and are often forced to leave school to provide for their families. However, in recent years, organizations such as the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos and the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women have established a presence in fighting for gender equality in El Salvador, particularly the freedom from violence and economic equality.
Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos
Established in 2008 in relation to the nonprofit organization Mary’s Pence, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos works within the Salvadoran community to fight for gender equality, support women in pursuing financial independence and teach about sexual and reproductive rights. Now with over 300 members and 576 loans given to women in the community to begin their own small businesses, the organization boasts many successful women-owned businesses in agriculture, food service and the clothing industry.
In 2016, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos held an assembly to share their growing knowledge of economic solidarity with other women. Along with members in El Salvador, women from Nicaragua and Honduras attended the event, creating a total of about 120 women. The event allowed attendees to discuss their business strategies with other women in similar business ventures and brainstorm ways to improve. By giving the women a space for discourse, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos further empowered El Salvadoran women to connect with each other.
However, the women in El Salvador are still struggling with violence and freedom. Gangs threatened women who owned businesses, demanding money in exchange for leaving the women and their businesses alone. Teen pregnancy continues to run high, something this organization hopes to combat through open discussions about sexual and reproductive health. Through economic independence and transparent education, the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos is fighting for the rights of Salvadoran women.
Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women
This agency was created to uphold the measures in the Domestic Violence Act and National Plan to Prevent and Deal with Domestic Violence, passed by the Salvadoran Secretariat of Social Inclusion in response to the high levels of domestic violence in the country. By recognizing domestic violence as a government issue, women suffering from violence in El Salvador were more likely to speak up and fight for their rights.
Like the Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos, the agency implements programs to encourage women’s education in business along with protecting those suffering from domestic violence. Although the government recognizes the gender disparity in business and economics, inherent sexism in communities challenges the progress of women in El Salvador. For example, the government can implement a program encouraging women into intellectual work, but the men working there have a preexisting bias of prioritizing and hiring men for such positions.
However, progress is being made. The Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women recently provided over 100 hygiene kits of feminine products and clothes to women who were struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mission of the agency is to support women in exercising their rights as citizens and bring the country closer to true gender equality; giving women the tools to be hygienic and safe is a start.
Seven in ten women in El Salvador are affected by some form of violence throughout their lives. The Concertación de Mujeres Suchitotos and the Salvadoran Institute for the Advancement of Women are taking a stand against domestic violence, arguing Salvadoran women have a right to live a violence-free life. Although slow, these organizations are seeing progress through their programs and fight tirelessly for gender equality in El Salvador.
– Kiyomi Kishaba