Wednesday, June 25, 2014
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.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
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
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Meet one of our three interns from York University, Karen Villanueva!
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