Gangs

Being a Woman in El Salvador, Part 3 – Ser una Mujer en El Salvador, Parte 3

“Violence is an obstacle that prevents women from developing their own initiatives, and economic activities.”                       -Ana Elena Badilla, UN Women representative In El Salvador, violence is a significant risk factor for women and a very real obstacle to their personal and economic development. The gangs which control so much of the country, plus the deeply entrenched machismo, create an environment where women are not safe in their own neighborhoods. Gang control is so pervasive in neighborhoods around El Salvador, that many girls are forced into sexual slavery as girlfriends of local gang leaders. The girls have no choice in the matter…they must join the gang or be killed. The problem has become so grave that young girls are fleeing El Salvador, and […]

Blog Series: Being a Woman in El Salvador, Part 1 – Ser una Mujer en El Salvador, Parte 1

A few months ago I read a story that has haunted me ever since. A 13 year old girl walked from her house to the local tienda to buy paper to finish her homework. On the way she was murdered for her cell phone. Sadly, her story is not an isolated incident. Too often my stomach turns as I read another story of violence against women in the news, hear of another femicide, or talk with one of our female clients about her life. El Salvador is such a beautiful country with such beautiful and strong women, but statistics show us that those women are at risk. Latin America as a region has high rates of femicide, sexual abuse, and exploitation against women. El Salvador has consistently been one of the region’s […]

Numbers – Cifras

I opened the newspaper, and the numbers screamed out at me. A lot of talk about El Salvador is reduced to its numbers. Number one murder rate in the world…Leading the world in the number of child homicides every day…Number one rate of femicide…Record numbers of undocumented child refugees fleeing El Salvador for the U.S…High numbers of daily deportations. Headline after headline points to the number of the dead, the number of criminals, the number of students dropping out of school because of the violence, the number of new shelters being set up around the country as families are forced out of their homes by the killings on their doorsteps. The numbers climb until they swirl around like some vast, dark cloud of despair. The numbers can crush us. When […]

Two Years

Two years. That is the amount of time that Rodrigo* has been living on the streets. As a 13 year old, he  was forced to leave everything familiar. His family, his school, his friends, and his neighborhood. He had to leave because staying meant death. The truth is, El Salvador has the highest child homicide rate in the world. Teenage boys are most at risk. Rodrigo’s life was threatened. Join us or die.  That is the message falling on too many young ears around El Salvador today. Be a criminal, or die at the hands of one. Kill, rob, extort or be a victim yourself. Rodrigo fled and found a new home. A 13 year old sleeping on a bed of gritty pavement, eating out of the garbage, looking for something […]

A Salvadoran Perspective on the Violence

Photo Credit: La Prensa Grafica Today Oscar Garcia is guest blogging to share with us his perspectives on the violence in El Salvador.  El Salvador is a small country with big problems. Like a tiny boat in the middle of a raging sea, our country is rocked day after day. As Salvadorans we feel the weight of rapid population growth, financial strain, soaring violence, and political distress. We struggle, and strain, and row against the wind and waves just to get the through the day. We, the people of El Salvador, feel like we are caught in a vicious cycle, like a crazy ride that we just can’t get off. Difficulty after difficulty, catastrophe after catastrophe…and there is no rest from the cruel circumstances that clash with our desire to live […]

The Human Trafficking Risk Facing Migrant Children

  “Love you neighbor as yourself.”  We grow up hearing this concept that comes straight from the teachings of the Bible. We believe it, and it may even move our hearts to action. But who are our neighbors? This month is Human Trafficking Awareness Month so I want to take a moment to consider our closest neighbors and the trafficking risks they may be facing. If you are in the U.S.A. and reading this, your neighbors include Mexicans and Central Americans. You don’t have to go far to meet them. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the violence in Central American’s Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) are sending hundreds of vulnerable children north in search of peace and safety. The situation is grim in El Salvador for children in high-risk […]

Our Girls

Yesterday marked the International Day of the Girl. It’s a day to focus on girls, and issues that they are facing around the world. It’s easy to see girls as vulnerable and in need of protection but we can also see them as powerful members of their communities. Research tells us that when girls are educated, their whole communities are impacted. We can acknowledge the challenges, but also celebrate the victories. Here in El Salvador, girls are facing overwhelming obstacles. Many of the girls we work with have experienced the very worst that life has to offer in the very short time that they have been on this earth. Some have been trafficked, others abused and neglected. Many of them live in fear. The situation created by gangs and poverty […]

The Ripple Effect

When you drop a stone into a pond there is an initial plunk and then the splash of water. Around the place where the stone dropped ripples spread out until the calm, quiet of the pond is completely interrupted by ripples of various sizes. No part of it is left untouched. I am seeing that violence has a similar affect on society, at least on the society here in El Salvador. Our tiny home has made international news for the worst possible reason…a soaring homicide rate. August closed with more than 900 murders. That is in a country the size of Massachusetts. As the ripples of violence spread, lives are marked by terror and fear. Some of the women who sell bras in our Free The Girls program can no […]

A Gateway of Hope

I have been reading some truly horrific things in the news here in El Salvador this week. A six year old girl was barbarically raped and murdered as part of a gang initiation rite. A police agent was brutally killed in front of his children. Meanwhile, the daily grind of violence pushes school attendance down and pulls the homicide rate up. I try to hide the paper from my children and swallow the physically ill feelings that this news brings. It seems like there is nothing left to do in the face of such reckless evil than to simply despair, give up, and wave the white flag. We deeply love this country, and it feels like it’s falling down before my eyes. How can I tell people that they can get […]

Imagine

Courage and strength…these qualities can be hard to come by when we grow up in the best of environments. Now, imagine that you did not grow up in a healthy environment. Imagine that you grew up in a hard situation, that your mother was gone most nights prostituting herself, that your father wasn’t around, and that your siblings didn’t even have the same father as you. Imagine that gangs moved into your neighborhood and forced you to do things you didn’t want to do. Imagine that you were exploited, intimidated, and soon you were in so deep that there was no way out. Imagine that you went to jail, and had a baby there. Imagine the fear, the weakness, the uncertainty. Imagine that you don’t have to imagine any of this […]