|A Meeting with the Elders of El Chile|
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Women’s Rights in Amando Lopez
Domestic violence is an international issue and a phenomenon that affects women across the globe. After four days in El Salvador, I began to understand the scope of the problem and the number of people who are affected by it. As a student and an advocate for the end of domestic violence against women, I have always viewed the issue from a distance. Facts and statistics have always affected me, but until now the problems have never felt personal. Along with expanding my world view, this trip has allowed me to question and evaluate my personal motivations for fighting domestic violence.
At this point in our trip we have traveled from San Salvador to Morazon and we have now arrived at Amando Lopez. Amando Lopez is a small community of 750 people that was established after the Salvadoran civil war; it is a community that enabled many refugees and guerrilla fighters own their own plot of land for the first time. To my surprise, I was welcomed with open arms into my host family’s home. Along with a friend, I stayed with a young lady. She is eighteen years old; she runs a household with two rooms, a kitchen, and an area for chickens. Kind and wiser than her years, she is also a mom of a two year old. After settling in, my friend and I observed that we were surrounded by a number of women. Two of her relatives were also working around the house and we took that to mean that it was a household run by women.
Later in the day, we had the chance to speak to our host and one of the issues we touched upon was women’s rights. She responded excitedly by telling us that she took classes in women’s rights through a local organization named ACUDESPAL and she had just been certified to teach classes by that organization. After showing us her certificate, she told us that she was involved in a number of women’s organizations. However, she was quick to mention that although her husband supported her, he refused to attend men’s classes for women rights and domestic violence. This aside, she began to share a few stories of domestic violence abuse experienced by her fellow women’s rights workers.
One story involved a husband who discovered that the child he was supporting was not his. As a result, the child and woman were beaten to death and the community was collectively helpless. Another story involved a woman who consistently suffered from domestic abuse. However, her story had a happier ending in that she was able to open a bakery and escape her situation when she was economically independent.
After hearing these stories, I began to observe our host’s interactions with her husband. As a leader in the community, he attended university and earned a degree in social work. Along with his volunteer work as one of the leaders of Amando Lopez, he also worked for the ACUDESPAL organization. At first, I believed that the household was very equal between both our hosts. However, I began noticing that she was more submissive in the presence of her husband. She consistently deferred to her husband in conversation, and would act on his commands to take care of their daughter. Additionally, when my friend asked if he knew how to cook as we shared a meal, he said that in their culture, men do not participate in women oriented activities. Afterwards, my friend and I remarked that for such a progressive leader and member of the community, the subtle culture of machismo persisted both in his household and conversation. Among the many themes that I have explored on this trip, women’s rights and domestic violence have struck me personally as I listened to women in El Salvador speak about their experiences fighting for their rights as well as their stories of those affected by this global issue.
Posted by Geoff at 8:25 PM