COVID 19, Economy, Womens issues

How COVID19 is Affecting Rural Women in Morazán (Pt.1)

Author: Evelin Romero
Human rights activist for women based in Morazán

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The COVID19 pandemic is deepening the economic, social and political crises in the world, but the impacts are especially pronounced among the impoverished peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In El Salvador, like other catastrophes that have occurred throughout history, COVID19 exacerbates high poverty rates, especially in rural areas where populations have been historically excluded from public policies.

In departments such as Ahuachapán, Cabañas and Morazán, the greatest affects of poverty fall more severely upon women, to whom the patriarchal system has erroneously assigned the main responsibility for family care; from reproductive tasks to productive work, all without financial remuneration.

Morazán unfortunately is a living example of this reality.

Due to the highly restrictive measures placed by the governemnt to deal with the pandemic, women are experiencing serious negative economic and social impacts.

Consequently, the responsibility to care for one’s family during this uncertain time is also generating adverse emotional responses.

Specifically speaking, this compulsory home quarantine has made it impossible for many women to carry out productive activities such as street vending or domestic work for other families. Aggravating the situation is the suspension of remittances, due to loss of employment of family members living in the United States.

On the other hand, some women who dedicate themselves to professions such as making clothing or cosmetology, have also been affected by the suspension of parties, graduations and other types of social events.

As expected, the lack of income leads to food shortages and the deterioration of health, affecting the immune system, especially in children and older adults. Although women have invested their few savings to cope with the crisis, this has not been enough as the pandemic is expected to worsen.

On top of this, social distancing measures are making it impossible for organized women in associations, cooperatives and savings groups to come together to socialize, share concerns, exchange ideas and find collective ways to face their reality.

Additionally, there is the difficult task of accompanying the education of school-aged children, considering that face-to-face classes are suspended and students must work via home guides, a task that can many times only be accomplished with the help of their parents and/or guardians. The situation is complicated in households that do not have internet access or with guardians who barely know how to read and write, as is the case in most rural families in Morazán.

Despite all these difficulties, the fighting spirit of these women hasn’t been defeated. Especially those women who are part of the Morazán Women’s Citizen Network. The network has found creative ways to maintain communication among themselves, to experience solidarity and to strengthen the accompaniment of those who face increased domestic violence.

We hope that from the present crisis we will draw renewed energy in order to create new relationships between us humans, new relationships with planet Earth and new alternatives for sustainable living.


IMG-20200508-WA0015Cómo COVID19 está Afectando a las Mujeres Rurales en Morazán (Pt.1)

Autora: Evelin Romero
Activista de derechos humanos para mujeres en Morazán

 

La pandemia del COVID19 está profundizando las crisis económicas, sociales y políticas en el mundo, pero sobre todo en los pueblos empobrecidos de América Latina y el Caribe.

En El Salvador, al igual que otras catástrofes ocurridas a lo largo de la historia, el covid19 pone al descubierto los altos índices de pobreza, de manera especial en las zonas rurales que han sido las poblaciones más excluidas de las políticas públicas.

En departamentos como Ahuachapán, Cabañas y Morazán, las mayores afectaciones de la pobreza, recaen con más severidad en las mujeres, a quienes erróneamente el sistema patriarcal les ha asignado la responsabilidad principal de los cuidados de la familia; desde las tareas reproductivas, hasta el trabajo productivo, sin remuneración económica.

Morazán, lamentablemente, es un ejemplo vivo de esta realidad.

Durante el tiempo transcurrido con medidas para enfrentar la pandemia, las mujeres están experimentando graves impactos económicos y sociales. En consecuencia, también les genera un impacto emocional sentir la responsabilidad del cuidado familiar.

Concretamente la cuarentena domiciliar obligatoria ha imposibilitado a muchas mujeres a realizar actividades productivas como ventas ambulantes u oficios domésticos para otras familias, agravando la situación está el hecho de la suspensión de remesas, por pérdida de empleo de familiares que viven en los Estados Unidos. Por otra parte, algunas mujeres que se dedican a profesiones como la confección de ropa o la cosmetología, se han visto afectadas con la suspensión de fiestas, graduaciones y otro tipo de eventos sociales.

Como es de suponer, la falta de ingresos genera escasez de alimentos y deterioro de la salud con afectaciones al sistema inmunológico, especial en la niñez y adultos mayores. Aunque las mujeres han invertido sus pocos ahorros para sobrellevar la crisis, esto no ha sido suficiente y se prevé que los problemas van a continuar.

Por otra parte, las medidas de distanciamiento social están imposibilitando que las mujeres organizadas en asociaciones, cooperativas y colectivos de ahorro, se puedan reunir para socializar sus preocupaciones, intercambiar ideas y encontrar formas colectivas de enfrentar su realidad.

Adicionalmente, está la difícil tarea de acompañar la educación de sus hijos e hijas, considerando que las clases presenciales están suspendidas y los estudiantes deben responder guías de trabajo en sus casas, tarea que solo pueden lograr con la ayuda de sus padres. La situación se complica en los hogares que no cuentan con acceso a internet o que los padres apenas saben leer y escribir, como suceden en la generalidad de las familias rurales de Morazán.

Pero todas estas dificultades no han doblegado el espíritu luchador de muchas mujeres, sobre todo aquellas que forman parte de la Red Ciudadana de Mujeres de Morazán, quienes han sabido encontrar formas creativas para mantener la comunicación entre ellas, para vivenciar la solidaridad y para fortalecer el acompañamiento a quienes enfrentan violencia intrafamiliar.

Tenemos la esperanza que de la presente crisis sacaremos energías renovadas para construir nuevas relaciones entre los seres humanos, nuevas relaciones con el planeta Tierra y nuevas alternativas de vida sostenible.

education, Public Health, Voices Developments, Womens issues, Youth Development

Our Note on the COVID19 Situation El Salvador

Download the PDF letter

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March 19, 2020

Dear Friend,

El Salvador, like many countries around the world, is reeling from the effects of COVID19. To clamp down on the spread of the virus, on March 15th, the government declared a state of emergency and approved a partial suspension of constitutional rights. What does that look like?

  • Foreigners are prohibited from entering the country by land, air or sea. All who enter illegally or legally are subject to a mandatory quarantine in a government run facility.
  • All educational activities are suspended, private and public.
  • Crowd sizes exceeding fifty people, such as concerts or sporting events are canceled.
  • All bars, cafes and discos are closed; restaurants can only offer delivery or take out.
  • Trade will continue normally. Commercial activities will remain unchanged, including imports and exports, under the proper sanitary control at customs.
  • People are told to shelter in place and only venture out if truly necessary.

On March 18th, El Salvador registered it’s first single confirmed case of the virus, from a Salvadoran returning from Italy, who defied the barrier the President put in place around the perimeter of the country. Because of citizen denouncements, he was picked up and tested positive for the virus and subsequently the entire municipality of Metapan, in the department of Santa Ana has been cordoned off for the next 48 hours in an effort to find his line of infection.

Impacts on the Salvadoran Society
The majority of the population has reacted with panic, no matter how many calls for calm are made. Supermarkets are crowded and supplies are beginning to become scarce, partly because there is hoarding and price inflations. For example in some places bottled water is selling for three times its normal price.

Bukele has said that the department of labor will do what it can to make sure employers and workers are economically supported during the quarantine, but every hour labor abuses are being called out via social media of workers being indiscriminately laid, off, mistreated or made to work when they aren’t supposed to.
The sectors most economically impacted by this national quarantine are the service industry, domestic workers, day laborers, street vendors, factory and sweatshop workers. Also affected are those Salvadoran families who already live in El Salvador’s precarious situation of water shortage. For young girls and women who face abuse at home, the situation of isolation becomes even more serious. It encourages victim control and greater submission of the victim.

Impacts on VOICES’ work
VOICES, like other NGOs, is having to adapt to these measures. For example, this situation forced us to cancel the annual South Bay Sanctuary Covenant delegation this March, as well as suspend the special delegation of teachers from Amando López to the United States in April.
Likewise, the SBSC fundraising event scheduled for April 26 in California, at which our director was to speak, was canceled.

Also with the suspension of classes the reproduction phase of the ECHO project workshops in Morazán is on hold; likewise, some community activities, workshops and meetings.

It’s safe to say that human rights don’t simply go away because of a national quarantine, and neither will VOICES’ commitment to accompanying our local partners as best as we can. As an organization, VOICES’ staff are adhering to the rules put in place by working from home.
This involves catching up on programming materials and fine tuning our evaluation frameworks, but we are also finding other ways to support our partners in the following ways:

Women’s Network of Morazán (9 municipalities served)
– Providing 15 canasta basicas for the Network’s most vulnerable members and their families.

Amando Lopez grade school (9 communities served)
– While some students may enjoy the meal provided by the school, other families may see it as a lifeline. The school’s staff compiled a list of 88 students who are most at risk from malnutrition and we will work with them to find the best way to help feed these kids during the quarantine.

Youth Development Association of Morazán (3 communities served)
– This inspiring youth group has had to cancel all of their programming including their special activities, community events, workshops and schools like their school of nutrition, which not only serves as a means to teach recipes, but also supports families’ ability to practice food sovereignty through the family farms component. We will work with AJUDEM to ensure that those most affected will have access to plants, seeds and compost to keep their farms growing.

El Salvador is a resilient country full of ingenuity and as long as we continue to practice true solidarity, we will all be able to come out of this pandemic with heads high and the prospect for a brighter more sustainable future.

Atentamente,
The VOICES Team

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News Highlights, women & girls

Imelda es Libre!

December 17, 2018
Jiquilisco, Usulután, El Salvador

Salvadoran judge Hugo Noé García, overturned an attempted murder charge, carrying a 20 year sentence, by the district attorney’s office in Usulután against Imelda Cortez, who then at 19-years-old, experienced a traumatic labor which caused her to loose consciousness and give birth to her baby in a latrine.
 
The baby girl survived and is in good health and Imelda spent 609 days in prison.

Her 71-year-old stepfather, Pablo Dolores Henríquez Ayala, who after 7 years of assaulting her, impregnated her, has been prosecuted for aggravated and continued rape of a minor. This after he himself gave accusatory testimony to the national police about his step-daughter on the day of the incident.

The judge recognized the mental and physical stress Imelda must have endured before, during and after giving birth to the newborn and lamented over the fact that she was denied access to not only her baby but the therapeutic care she desperately needed in order to heal from the long-term psychological damage that had been inflicted on her.

Since it was put forth, the case has been contested in the international court of public opinion and, due to the full-scale feminist movement in El Salvador and beyond, Imelda has receive top-notch legal representation, international media coverage and diplomatic support.

The morning of the 18th, Imelda and her defense team were prepared to accept a reduced sentenced of one year, time served, in exchange for pleading guilty to the prosecution’s lesser change of “abandoning a newborn.” However the judge, in an astonishing move, over-tuned the ruling four hours after the session began.

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Hundreds of supporters gathered outside of the courthouse on Monday to support Imelda and chants of “si se puede!” rang out as she was led out.
 

Capacity Building, women & girls, Womens issues

Self-Defense for Morazán Women

Watch the Morazán Women’s Network take their first course on self-defense.

This special workshop was giving by Claudia Fuentes, a Salvadoran martial artist who has developed a self-defense program with a feminist approach especially for women and girls in El Salvador.

women & girls, Womens issues

Community Action Protocol: Step by Step Guides

The Women’s Network of Morazán continue to develop their community Action Protocol to address the very real problem of gender violence in the department. This month they began working on an important section, the actual step by step guides that different actors should follow in order to ensure the safety, justice and healing for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

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Corruption, violence, women & girls

Marielle Franco was Murderd by the State for her Human Rights Work in Brazil

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We lament in the assassination of Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian sociologist and politician gunned down in Rio de Janeiro the night of March 14th by masked men while sitting in a car with her driver, who was also killed in the attack. Marielle was a prolific activist, a hard-hitting politician and constant voice for the impoverished.

Marielle grew up in favela in northern Rio de Janeiro, and became a rising luminary in activism and politics, a rare status for a black woman from a marginalized community. In 2016, she was elected as a member of the left-leaning Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) known for her social work with the poor and marginalized, and for her outspokenness against police violence disproportionately targeting black Brazilians.

Hours before her murder, during a panel discussion on women’s empowerment, she uttered the quote by Audre Lorde: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

Her cowardly murder has taken place two years and 10 days after the execution of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist killed by Honduran state actors.

We stand in solidarity with the tens of thousands of protesters in Brazil and around the world and denounce this obvious state-sanctioned slaying and demand justice for Marielle Franco, justice for Berta Cáceres and for the hundreds of land, environmental and human rights activists needlessly slain by their own states over the past decade.

Marielle, rest in power.

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Protesting the assassination of Marielle Franco, Rio de Janeiro

#MariellePresente    #NiUnMenos    #VivasNosQueremos    #JusticiaParaMarielleFranco

Equality, Uncategorized, women & girls

Protecting and Preventing Acts of Violence Against Women in Morazán

El Salvador’s recently held mid-term elections on March 4, saw a staggering overturn of political power as right-wing parties overtook the senate and major municipal seats in San Salvador, La Libertad and Santa Ana; and much could be said about the ‘debacle.’ At the same time, human rights defenders and survivors are celebrating the exoneration and release of two Salvadoran women unjustly incarcerated in for miscarriages many years ago.

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Last year, El Salvador experienced 3,605 homicides, a 1,675 reduction from 2016. As multitudes rise up in outrage against the country’s oppressive justice system and high rate of gender-based violence, El Salvador continues to be one of the most dangerous countries to be a woman.

2017 National Statistics
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More troubling is that the factual number of violent cases against Salvadoran women and girls are most certainly much higher than the statistics represented above because victims do not report becasue of fear of retribution and impunity. It is important to note that the majority of these victims suffer abuse in their own homes at the hand of men most close to them.

2018 Women’s March in San Salvadoroutput_mOcplO

Silvia Juárez, program coordinator for the Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace  in El Salvador (ORMUSA) stated that women “are still not equal. The profound root of violence against women is inequality. We are considered human beings of less value.” On the eve of International Women’s day, a vigil was held in San Salvador and on March 8, over 3,000 marchers took to the streets to protest the country’s widespread inequality and violence against women. Their demands were simple: dignity and respect for all women and reforms to the healthcare and judicial systems.

That same day in Morazán, 600 protestors marched through the streets of San Francisco Gotera, confronting important judicial courts and even the town hall, while chanting slogans like “We don’t want flowers, we want justice!”

In 2016, 176 cases of domestic violence and 72 acts of sexual violence were reported in Morazán. According to the Citizen Network of Morazán Women (the Network), though down from the 14 official reports in 2016, five cases of femicide were invisibilizedthis year. The Network consists of 8 municipal associations scattered throughout the department with the mutual objective of promoting and defending the human rights of women. They accomplish their goals through combining unity, education and protest.

Women’s Day in Morazán, 2018output_jBLsBe

Gender-based violence is so prevalent in Morazán that it has led to the Network and other local organizations to begin to develop a community based approach to facilitate the recovery of victims and their families by educating communities and service providers, offering victims immediate and long-term support, and holding relevant  institutions accountable. Fortunately, this interrelationship of Morazán leaders exemplifies a support network of local women who can identify effective solutions to support victims of violence and their families in resource-constrained settings.

Click here for more information about the Network’s initiative and ways you can help.

The time is now.