Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 Election Observation Mission Update

Meeting at the Procuradoría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Ombudsman) on 25 January 2012.
Speaking with the president of the Registro Nacional de Personas Naturales (National Registry of Naturalized Persons) on 18 January 2012.
With election campaigns for diputados and alcades in full force, the Election Observation Mission has no trouble staying active. The long-term observation team expanded to three more members in the New Year, making a total eight full time volunteers from five different countries. Our agenda consists of establishing relationships with relevant institutions, getting to know the municipalities where observers will be present on Election Day (March 11), and tracking daily political news. This is the first year of major election reforms, including residential voting and the ability to vote for individual candidates, which means that our work on this mission will reveal stark changes in the process of democracy development in El Salvador.

We have been fortunate enough to have meetings with several agencies that are instrumental in the election process, including the Registro Nacional de Personas Naturales (RNPN), Policia Nacional Civil (PNC), and the Procuradoría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (PDDH). The goal of these meetings is to understand the roles of these institutions in electoral facilitation. The principle theme that we are encountering is that the process of democracy development is only a small part of greater integration of the people of El Salvador. For example the RNPN, which issues national identification cards that allow people to vote, is concerned with creating an accurate list of eligible and legal voters. This task is part of the larger goal of documenting people so they have access to social services, education, and civil rights. We look forward continuing to understand from the inside and continuing our critical investigation of election structure.

On January 24, we visited the departments of Cabañas and Cuscatlán and spoke with representatives of the local Junta Electoral Municipal (JEM - boards formed during election periods to organize the logistics of voting) and introduced ourselves to members of the local police. Packed intimately in the CIS pickup, it was an incredible way to get acquainted with the countryside of El Salvador, not to mention that we extended our list of contacts. This opportunity to see where we will be working and engage local stakeholders allowed us to better understand how our work in San Salvador will translate in the field. Our next visits will be to the Departmento of La Libertad and municipalities within San Salvador.

Our workdays at CIS have consisted of learning about the new voting system, compiling press monitoring reports to create the weekly election bulletins, and briefings on the history, culture, and current political climate of El Salvador. As previously stated, this is the first year the greater part of the country will be voting at centers designated by their geographical residence, and ballots will have images of the diputados (legislative candidates) allowing voters to favor individual candidates in addition to political parties. CIS is working with other NGOs on voter education initiatives, including a how-to-vote workshop for the English school students of CIS. We also keep up-to-date news reports, read through the three main newspapers, watch T.V. news programs, listen to radio broadcasts, and take note of the vast amount of political propaganda that fills the streets.
As election time gets closer, our understanding of El Salvadorian democracy and elections becomes more comprehensive, and our enthusiasm for the work that we do increases. We look forward to deepening and expanding our relationships in the municipalities and watching the events of the elections unfold. For more weekly information on the development of the electoral campaigns see our Bulletin at the CIS websites.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunset Dinner on Top of San Salvador Volcano

CIS political cultural program organizes trips to see El Salvador's beauty, be in solidarity with communities working for fair trade and enjoy the company of Salvadorans and people from around the globe.  Spanish students, volunteer English teachers, volunteer election observers and Salvadoran host families enjoy dinner and sunset on top of the San Salvador Volcano.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mélida Anaya Montes Language School at CIS El Salvador

Whether you are learning Spanish or teaching English our educational process is a two-way street! At the Mélida Anaya Montes Language School we believe that teachers and students alike learn and teach throughout their experience. In the classroom, we focus on the students’ ability to communicate. Even beginners can hold conversations!

Using popular education methodology, our school incorporates core themes related to the social justice movement into language learning. Themes include:
-Human Rights
-Intervention of Dominant Powers in the Developing World
-Threats to the Environment and their Effects on Life
-The Social Movement-Roots and Causes

Spanish classes are offered in the mornings for beginners to advanced speakers. Spanish teachers are Salvadorans trained in teaching Spanish as a second language. They have a variety of experience levels; some with up to 8 years of teaching experience at CIS, and most are involved in the social movement.

English classes are also available for basic to conversational level students. Many of our Spanish students are also volunteer English teachers in the evenings! Classes are offered to adults and priority is given to those involved in the social movement, women struggling for their self-determination, and individuals who are unable to attend other language schools for financial reasons.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Marquette University Visits Colorada Island and Handbag Project

Woman with Cati's Handbag

Marquette University Economics and Business students visit Isla Colorada in El Salvador and "Cati's Hand Bag" project to exchange ideas about building alternative economic initiatives.  CIS promotes the hand made bags with hand woven fabric from San Sebastian as part of our solidarity craft projectSalvadoran Enterprises for Women provides support to CIS and the women for development of their economic inicitative.   Bags are available through the CIS's website for approximately $20.   CIS delegations are a unique opportunity to experience Salvadoran reality first hand, build solidarity relationships, and accompany initiatives for social and economic justice.

Samples of some of the bags that the women of the Tasajera Island, to see more and place your order look at our online store.

Hand woven cloth that the bags are made from.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Indigo Dying Process Demonstration at San Luis Los Ranchos, Comasagua

CIS with Salvadoran Enterprises for Women (SEW) began working with organized women in San Luis los Ranchos, Comasagua, in 2005.   The first training women learned how to make indigo bath and several dying teqniques over a period of 6 months.  The women continued learning how to sew the articles they dye to generate income and employment in an area with no paid employment for women. Seven years later two of the women are studying at the university, 10 women are making school uniforms and have been accredited with government contracts, and 6 are dying and selling indigo articles.  In 2011the women won a prize from the Brazilian Government and as a result are getting further training and support.   Check out CIS online store:  www.cis-elsalvador or click below for a direct link.  

Indigo was exported from El Salvador to Europe for over 300 years and made 14 families wealthy in El Salvador, as a result of their enslavement and exploitation of the indigeouness population.  Now the indigenous culture is being brought back to train women and form more collective and just forms a production and distribution of the wealth generated.  

Student from University of Maryland learns dying technique.
Women young and old form part of the business.   The main employer of women in El Salvador, the textile maquila factories only employs women with a minimum of 9th grade education and only until they are 35 years old.  CIS/SEW sponsored projects allow women to work close to home and explore their talents no matter how young or old, and with different levels of formal education.


Check out some of the amazing finished products on our online store!