Recently we have been learning more about one of the women’s organisations that IMU (one of Progressio's partner organisations) helps called Adescom FM. They are a small association that was established in March 2002. Their aim is to empower the women in the municipality of El Refugio and give them a voice. It provides its associates with the opportunity of paid work, education about knowing and defending their rights and training in skills such as sewing and tailoring. The heart of this organisation is the Panaderia La Esperanza. It not only helps to provide an income for the women but acts as a safe haven where they can escape from the stresses of home. The women built the bakery by themselves in 2006; everything from the brick work to roofing and this was funded by the German embassy, who was made aware of Adescom through IMU.
The first meeting we had was attended by five of the associates, more would have liked to come but everyone was busy as it was 'Día del niño' (day of the children). Each of the members of Adescom and the national volunteers shared their perspective on what it is to be a woman in El Salvador. The female volunteers explained how they were expected to fulfil specific roles such as being a mother, carer and wife. The male volunteers said how they thought it would be hard to be a woman because they had to look after the children and do the housework. They also commented that men should respect women because we all have a mother and wouldn’t be here without women. What they said seems to be fine but this attitude reinforces their belief that a woman’s only purpose is to have children and they do not have worth as individuals, but I don’t think they get that. The general consensus of the women was that Salvadorian women live a life with limited opportunities and a constant struggle to overcome prejudice on a daily basis. But one positive thing that was said by most of the women was that now they feel beautiful and are happy within themselves. They have also said that they recognise that they are all individuals.
There is a book that compiles all of the information about Adescom and in it one of the women are quoted as saying “We were women who looked at the floor, never directly in the eyes of others…. We learnt that we have a value as human beings, and nobody has the right to destroy this value.”
I know it sounds a bit cliché but it is important for us not to forget that as women we have worth as individuals, not just as mothers or wives because as long as women lose their identity and not recognise their worth then women will continue to be supressed.
Adescom FM is one of many small collectives of organised women who are using their strengths to improve both their own lives and the lives of others. Without these women as role models, young girls will continue to live a life void of opportunities and progression.
As part of our work for Progressio we are building organic gardens for some of the Adescom members. This is a project that they wanted to do before but lacked time and resources. The gardens will give the women some independence and the ability to provide their families with a more varied and nutritionally balanced diet. Alongside the gardens we have ran classes on the importance of organic agriculture for both the environment and health. This project is mindful of Progressio’s vision for poor people to be empowered to transform their own lives. It also goes some way to try and address the millennium development goal of ensuring environmental sustainability.
Blog by: Chelsea Thompson
Photo 1: Progressio ICS volunteers with ADECOM FM
Photo 2: Woman building the bakery