Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Letter to Congressional Rep

I am writing to ask you to sign onto the Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Representatives Pocan and Honda regarding the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with El Salvador and the risk it currently poses to family farmers.

It has come to my attention that the US Embassy is requiring that El Salvador, in order to receive a second MCC compact, eliminate a provision that allows the government to purchase seeds for its Family Agriculture Plan from small-scale producers. 

This provision has been key to the success of the Family Agriculture Plan, which is helping to revitalize the agricultural sector in El Salvador by providing seeds and technical assistance to over 400,000 family farmers. It has allowed many small- and medium-scale producers the opportunity to bid on government contracts from which they would otherwise be excluded, thereby breaking the monopoly held by two major agricultural corporations.

The repeal of this law would limit the government's ability to purchase the highest-quality seeds at the best price, which is essential to the country's goal of ensuring food security. It would also place corporations at a considerable advantage over small-scale producers, thus jeopardizing El Salvador's efforts to reduce rural poverty. 

The terms of El Salvador’s food security program should not be a matter of negotiation for the MCC compact, nor should the State Department use the final approval of the compact as a way to exert undue influence on El Salvador's domestic economic policy. 

I hope you agree that US development aid should be used to support sustainable development efforts in El Salvador, not to undermine them on behalf of narrow corporate interests. I urge you to sign onto this important letter.  Please contact Alicia Molt ASAP at Congressman Pocan's office in order to do so. The letter will close on Thursday, June 26.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Confecciones La Colorada, Isla Tasajera

Yesterday we went to Tasajera Island to visit with one of the artisan groups that CIS

works with--¨Confecciones La Colorada¨ who make the lovely ¨bolsas de Cati¨(Cati

bags). All of the women were busy at work when we arrived--cutting, measuring,

pinning and sewing their beautiful bags of varying sizes and designs, all made of

colourful, locally hand-woven fabrics. Immediately they stopped working and came out

to welcome us with hugs, kisses and bright smiles.

After walking around and admiring their work, we sat down with them to discuss and

evaluate their progress over the last year, to better understand their work, challenges and

goals, and the ways in which CIS can continue to help.

These women have been industrious enough to begin the challenging

process of certification as an accredited Salvadoran cooperative so

that they will be eligible to acquire government contracts to make

school uniforms. To accomplish this, they need to deal with quite a bit

of paperwork, garner support from the directors of the schools in their

community, make samples and present themselves at a government

job fair. This poses unique challenges such as transportation from their

isolated community into San Salvador, acquiring (or making)

professional attire to present themselves in, training in interview skills and formal language. The group remains

resolute and determined to succeed. They hope to truly establish themselves as a business and a recognized

brand, so that they will be able to employ even more women from their community. With all of the progress

they have made so far, I have no doubt that they will soon accomplish their goals, as well as CIS’ ultimate

goal for them of independence.

After the evaluation portion of the meeting, I had the opportunity to ask some more

personal questions and they were happy to share their experiences with us:

Most of them hadn’t even dreamed of completing

secondary school before joining the group, but since

starting to work there, they now have acquired the

financial stability to support themselves going back

to school, providing for their own children to

continue schooling, and even planning to attend

university. ¨Las Confecciones¨ has provided a way out from the ¨maquilas¨ for some, and for others, a sense

of independence and personal power in a society where women are expected to stay at home, minding the

house and the children. The workshops and training that CIS helped to

provide them have opened their minds to a new way of thinking, and a

real drive for gender equality in their society. Some of their partners

and others in their community weren’t very supportive, thinking that

they were wasting their time and neglecting their womanly duties, but

with every garment they sell, they prove them wrong.  And even more

than these financial, educational, and perhaps political changes in their

lives, what touched me most was the friendship and support system they provide to each

other. Everyone got teary-eyed when one woman talked about how much the others

helped her through her troubles with domestic abuse, and others talked about hard times

in their lives when the group was there to support them in solidarity.

"It’s not like in the maquilas where if I get too sick

to work one day, I lose my job. Here our conditions

are so much better, and we are like our own

bosses.¨I couldn’t help wishing that I was a rich

philanthropist to donate all the funds they need

for their cause. With Bolsas de Cati you aren’t just

buying a bag—you’re investing in a brighter future for deserving and hardworking women.

-Alicia Richins, York University Intern

Monday, June 16, 2014

 María Madre de Los Pobres, La Chacra, San Salvador, El Salvador

After attending two previous training sessions regarding health, hygiene, sanitation, filter usage and environmental protection, 24 residents of La Chacra, received their filters.  Saturday May 31st, 2014, the CIS Clean Water Project delivered 24 Sawyer Water Filters to each participant who had completed all of the pre-requisites.  Luis, coordinator of the CIS Clean Water project, showed everyone how to assemble their filters step by step.  After all questions were answered, the filters were distributed.  Each participant received their filter, and stayed to assemble it on-site to ensure proper filter installation.  CIS has trained representatives in 74 families in the Parish of Maria Madre de los Pobres and donated filters to those same families to date.  The CIS trainings are about raising awareness and changing people’s habits previous to giving the filters, so as not to fall into the trap of some NGOs or visitors who hand things out and feel good, but don’t do the necessary preparation, organization and follow up to make sure people have adequate training and orientation to actually make changes of what have been lifelong habits and conditions.

Special Thanks to Chris Chaney and the new NGO he has started – GIVE SAFE WATER - for raising the funds for the project, and to Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish for providing a meeting place and coordination support, and assigning Wendy who is now the local coordinator of the water committee at Madre.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Meet one of our three interns from York University!

Meet one of our three interns from York University, Karen Villanueva!

Here is what she had to say about her first full day on the job:

How important are women and their role in society?
Despite the many times that this question has come up in gender equity debates, today we can truly say that the solidarity and exchange of ideas and attitudes make a difference in some salvadorian communities. My first experience at the CIS interning with women’s enterprises was exceptional. We visited Las Delicias Bakery situated in Llano Largo, Jutiapa, to officially commemorate its opening in the community. We had the opportunity to evaluate and discuss different experiences, achievements, difficulties and expectations with the participants.  This celebration opened the way for personal interaction with the women, who passionately baked cakes and bread to offer the community members at the event. The women also included members of CIS in their baking, decorating and serving process who gladly participated. There is various levels for the bakery to achieve, but I have to say that this women are earning respect and admiration as entrepeneurs as a result of solidarity networks.

Cuan importante es una mujer y su rol en la sociedad? Aunque esta pregunta ha sido parte de un debate de equidad de generos, hoy podemos decir que la solidaridad e intercambio de ideas y actitudes marca una diferencia en algunas comunidades salvadorenas. Como pasante en el CIS, mi primera experiencia trabajando en las micro-empresas de mujeres fue excepcional. Con el grupo de CIS visitamos la panaderia Las Delicias ubicada en Llano Largo, Jutiapa, para inaugurar su iniciacion oficial en la comunidad. Tuvimos la oportunidad de hacer una evaluacion con las participantes de la asociacion y discutir un poco sus experiencias, logros, dificultades y expectativas del proyecto. Esta celebracion abrio paso a interactuar personalmente con las mujeres, quienes con mucha dedicacion hicieron pasteles y pan para ofrecer a las personas presentes. En el proceso de hornear, decorar y servir incluyeron a los miembros del CIS que con emocion participamos. Todavia hay muchos niveles que alcanzar con la panaderia Las Delicias, pero no sobra decir que poco a poco estas mujeres estan ganando respeto y admiracion como mujeres emprendedoras como resultado de lazos de solidaridad