Reflections from El SalvadorLast week WOV’s Chapter Leadership Advisor Beth Yeager and partners from the Women of Vision Houston group traveled to El Salvador to learn first-hand about the challenges to women and girls experiencing violence and about the successful interventions by World Vision in El Alfarero and Guatajiagua communities to promote a culture of peace and gender equity. Barbara Carroll shares about their early experience and first impressions of the trip.
We were met by Gustavo Chacon, Donor Liason with World Vision El Salvador at the airport. He was with our group in 2010 and besides being very experienced at handling diverse groups, he has a quick wit and an excellent command of English. He loaded us on a very nice motor coach and whisk off to enjoy a quick, flavorful Salvadorian lunch. We then headed to the WVES National office.
Wow! That is when the adventure really began. We met for over 4 hours with various amazing WVES staff members to learn much about so many different projects, focus areas, and initiatives.
Overall, let me start by writing that from September 2010 to now, October 2013, the leadership of the WVES National Office has become more focused, coordinated, integrated and over all more sophisticated in their approach to severing their communities, communicating with each other, coordinating their efforts among various NGOs (non governmental organizations) and integrating and crystallizing their initiatives. They have an annual budget of $17 MM with about $11.5 from child sponsorship and the rest from individual donors or gifts in kind. They receive funding from donors in the US, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Canada.
Their key focus areas are child protection/nutrition/safety, secure and healthy environment (such as clean drinking water, gang violence, etc.), advocacy for various at risk groups, sustainability (making sure that what put in place can be carried on after WVES leaves a community), and leadership (staff, community stakeholders/local officials).
In particular we discussed the many issues around gender equality and the staggeringly high rate of violence against woman, especially domestic violence. We were all shocked by the statistics and the common perception amount Salvadorian males that woman did not need to go to schools much beyond a few grades, the high illiteracy rate and the high multiple pregnancy rate. When a woman is a victim of violence and suppression she can not be expected to take care of herself, much less care and protect her children, and cycle continues, generation after generation. They have hired an excellent, well qualified Gender Equality specialist. Our WOV Houston chapter is helping to support her work. They are working to raise awareness of the issue on many fronts, with the media, elected officials/legislature, church leadership, the WVES staff and community stakeholders. Also, when single mothers are empowered with financial assistance to start a small enterprises (microloans) to help support themselves and their children they are less likely to be victims of violence, suppression, and abuse.