International Women's Day in El Salvador
As they did throughout the world, women marched in El Salvador today to mark International Women's Day. Women in El Salvador marched to highlight a wide range of issues including gender-based and domestic violence, unequal pay for equal work, women in poverty, and draconian abortion laws.
The need for for empowerment and legal protection of women is seen in an article titled “There’s exploitation behind every piece of clothing made in El Salvador” from the Spanish periodical El Pais, in an interview with Salvadoran activist Montserrat Arévalo about garment factories:
At the factories, you have women aged 18 through 35. The extenuating workdays of over 16 hours and the high production targets mean that after the age of 35, these workers are no longer profitable for the industry. So most of them are young, uneducated women and homemakers. Their low education level and precarious situation forces them to work in this sector, as there are no formal job alternatives in the country. Behind every article of clothing, there is a story of exploitation in my country. We need to tell this story in Europe, in order to encourage greater awareness and more responsible consumption that will help change these inhumane production conditions.
Does the vulnerability of these women play against them?Some steps towards protecting and empowering women are being made through the Ciudad Mujer program. UN Women wrote in the Huffington Post an article titled In El Salvador, Rural Women Plant Seeds Of Independence about Ciudad Mujer and how attention paid to skill training, empowerment and legal protection could make real improvements in the lives of rural Salvadoran women.
It is no coincidence that the factories are in El Salvador, nor that it is mostly women who work in this sector. There is a perverse breeding ground there: the state is very weak and very permissive when it comes to violations of its people’s rights. It is the state itself that encourages the creation of these companies through economic incentives such as tax exemptions, and that is why they easily look the other way while rights are systematically violated. This complicity between businesses and the state is very difficult for these women to break.