To show London a unique insight into the women’s rights movement in El Salvador, an ICS volunteer has opened the doors to a collection of work inspired by her time volunteering with Progressio.

Stories of El Salvador, on display at the Rich Mix cinema in Shoreditch until 20 January, is an exhibition featuring photographs and videos taken by Elam Forrester during her time as an ICS volunteer in El Salvador, as well as archive photography from the country’s devastating civil war. 

Elam, a professional filmmaker based in Hackney, said she wanted to show a side of the Central American country that was distinct from what is commonly depicted in the news.

“Gang violence and mass emigration to the US are the stories most people hear in relation to El Salvador, but my experience of living in a rural community was far removed from that,” she said. “I came away from my time there greatly inspired by the spirit and passion of the people I met and their commitment to fighting gender and social inequalities despite their difficult history.”

A private view on Thursday 8 January was richly attended and featured a traditional folk guitar player, dancer and snacks of mini pupusas – a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is a Salvadorian speciality. Officials from the Salvadorian embassy also attended, with Deputy Head of Mission, Gilda Velásquez, taking time to thank Elam and other Progressio volunteers whose work has had such a positive impact on her home country.  

Elam’s exhibition focuses on the experience of women. It documents the pivotal role women played in the civil war and their continuing influence on current culture, despite El Salvador’s famously machismo culture. Elam believes many of the struggles she encountered and documented are universal.

“In Rich Mix’s neighbourhood of Tower Hamlets, many women face the similar challenges to those I observed in El Salvador,” she said. “I wanted the exhibition to give an opportunity for a larger conversation about women’s rights in Central America and beyond.”

With this in mind, on Monday 12 January Progressio’s policy manager Lizzette Robleto will be one of three experts talking about women’s rights in the region, while, on Monday 19 January, Elam’s fellow volunteer, Bethan McEvoy, will stage a play she has written and directed which examines different generations’ responses to the Civil War. Both of these fantastic events are free.

Elam’s exhibition, which was partially funded by Progressio, will be displayed on the ground floor of the Rich Mix cinema until 20 January, from 11am to 8pm daily. 

For more information, click here.