From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Mennonite Central Committee supported trip connects Salvadoran

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Mon, 09 Dec 2002 11:15:45 -0800

MCC-supported trip connects Salvadoran women

(717) 859-1151, <>

AGUA ZARCA, El Salvador -- For women in rural El Salvador, nearly every
of the day is filled with homemaking tasks: cooking and grinding corn,
out tortillas, washing, hauling water and firewood and caring for children.
this fall a group of 17 women from 11 communities in northern Morazan state 
a two-day break from their routine to visit and share ideas and stories with
women's groups in other parts of the country.

Participants returned from the trip, which Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)
helped organize, with new friends and a different perspective on their own

Along with two religious sisters, I accompanied the women -- all leaders of
Christian women's groups -- as they visited groups in San Salvador, the 
and the nearby sprawling cities of San Martmn and Soyapango. Many of the
got up early to prepare. Blanca Nieves Vijil, for example, awoke at 1 a.m. 
9. She made two days' worth of tortillas for her family and then walked two
hours from her remote community of Ojos de Agua to meet the bus.

The women visited La Lmnea, a poor community along abandoned railroad tracks
San Martmn, where they shared experiences with two women's craft-making
supported by MCC worker Paul Brohaugh. Several of the women from Morazan are
also skilled in making hammocks and crochet bags and have experience in group
organization. The 30 women gathered in small groups to discuss product ideas,
methods and organizational experiences.

In Soyapango, representatives of the community savings and loan groups
Para un Futuro Mejor (Women for a Better Future) welcomed the visitors with
fresh "quesadilla" (a Salvadoran specialty cheese bread) and coffee, eager to
share their experience with savings and small business initiatives.

"Knowing that I will earn something for my savings, I am encouraged to put 
the effort to save," explained Miriam Martmnez, a member of the community

During the visit and later in an evening reflection time, the Morazan women
expressed interest in these women's steps to respond to their families' 
needs.	Paula Romero, who leads a savings and credit group in Torola,
shared the experience of her own group -- a local effort many of the women
not previously been aware of.

Later in the trip, leaders of the women's organization Las Dignas described
their efforts to address numerous facets of gender issues: sexual and
reproductive rights, violence against women, support of women in politics,
economic issues affecting women and anti-sexist education.

On each visit, the Morazan women presented a copy of the booklet "Tomamos La
Palabra" ("We Speak Out"), a collection of their own life stories created
MCC support, as well as a product of their own skills -- bread wrapped in an
embroidered cloth, a knotted string sack, a crochet bag and a coin purse.

A month after the trip, the Morazan women reflected on the experience during
their monthly gathering.  "We are not the only ones who work," observed
del Carmen Blanco. "The others in the three places where we went also look
what direction to give to life."

She and Rosa Haydee Amaya have been thinking about how to incorporate new
into their women's groups. Haydee Amaya described how the women in her group
have started to save two colons (23 cents U.S.) monthly to start a group

The experience broadened the women's awareness of conditions in other parts
the country.  Zoila Lspez Chicas commented that she had gone to San Salvador
before, but had never seen the living conditions in urban communities such 
as La
Lmnea and Soyapango.

"At least we have a place to live," said Claudia Pirez. "We don?t have the
latrine right beside the kitchen. They don?t have space to hang their 
clothes to
dry. If there are earthquakes, everything comes down!"

Carmen Elena Hernandez observed, "One values what she has when she sees

Perhaps most significant of all were the human connections 
established.  "Juntas
podemos (Together we can)," reiterated Udelia Vasquez. "One alone cannot do

- 30 -

Audrey Hess, from Lancaster, Pa., is an MCC community worker in northern
Morazan, El Salvador. She is a member of Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church,
Baltimore, Md.

MCC photo available: Rosario Sara, left, of Soyapango, El Salvador, shares
recipe for "quesadilla" (cheese bread) with Vilma Perez of Morazan during an
MCC-supported exchange. Both women operate small bakeries. (Photo by Audrey

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