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FEATURE STORY

In El Salvador, Women’s Rights Come to the Forefront

May 28, 2013

The First Lady Vanda Pignato and Sergio Jellinek, manager of External Affairs at WB in Latin America, during a visit to Ciudad Mujer center in San Martin

Highlights
  • An initiative of the Social Inclusion Secretariat led by the First Lady helps women fight gender violence and to know their rights.
  • In Colón, Usulután, Santa Ana and San Martín, women have a space for a variety of services, from psychological counseling to advice on sexual and reproductive health.
  • The World Bank develops initiatives to raise awareness on violence against women and women’s key role in the country’s economic development

Women who suffer physical and psychological abuse, women who work more hours yet earn almost 20% less than men, single mothers and young women who had to drop out of school to care for their children. Historically, the macho culture has prevailed in El Salvador, but that is beginning to change.

Since 2011, an initiative launched by the Social Inclusion Secretariat has created a space, a shelter and a place of hope for thousands of women. The center provides women with access to health care, psychological legal and financial counseling or simply serves as a place to share experiences and find a solution to their problems. Its name: Ciudad Mujer (Women’s City).

This program seeks to guarantee the rights of Salvadoran women through the provision of services such as sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive care in cases of gender violence, economic empowerment and rights promotion.

With four centers – one each in Colón, Usulután, Santa Ana and San Martín – the latter opened last March, Ciudad Mujer has become a successful model because 16 government agencies are concentrated in a single space, ranging from police offices to report abuses to legal and psychological counseling services. The centers are staffed by female personnel exclusively to encourage a trusting environment.

 “We all need it,” said a young woman. “If I could, I’d spend all day here,” says another of the beneficiaries of this initiative, which is changing the lives of many women.

Vanda Pignato, First Lady and secretary of Social Inclusion, is admired in El Salvador and abroad for her work in defense of women’s rights and well-being.

 “At Ciudad Mujer, we know  that gender violence and discrimination can happen at any age. One of the most victimized groups in our country is adolescents and young people,” said  Pignato during the opening of a workshop on female soccer. She stressed that actions were needed to ensure that young women know their rights and how to exercise them.

Open Quotes

Our projects aim to identify solutions to different forms of gender violence. We have learned that women’s capacity to make decisions and to implement them is pivotal for equality and development. Close Quotes

Carlos Felipe Jaramillo
World Bank director for Central America

The World Bank promotes the role of Central American women in society

The World Bank also develops initiatives to raise awareness on the social impact of violence against women, particularly in Central America.

“Our projects aim to identify solutions to different forms of gender violence. We have learned that women’s capacity to make decisions and to implement them is pivotal for equality and development,” said Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank Director for Central America.

However, he cautions that for this to become a reality requires the active support of society to give women the means and tools to overcome their difficult situation.

One World Bank initiative to raise awareness of the problem and offer practical solutions to women in danger was a ‘hackathon’ (software program competition) to combat domestic violence in Central America.

For 48 hours, the competitors – young software programmers throughout the region – developed innovative digital solutions or smart phone applications to provide Central American women with possibilities and resources for protection from and reporting of abuse.

"This is a new experience. Ultimately, we are interested in raising public awareness about this serious problem,” said Jaramillo.

The World Bank also implements the Income Support and Employability Project, which supports three development objectives of the Salvadoran government: to provide temporary income support to vulnerable individuals in urban centers; to improve government capacity to offer training and job placement services, especially among poor sectors, and; to enhance government capacity to develop an integrated social protection system.