BLOG FIVE: FORWARD LOOKING - HOPE FOR SALVADORAN WOMEN

This is the final post in a five part blog series, "Peacebuilding: A Way to End Violence Against Women in El Salvador".

As Salvadoran women set their own priorities for building a new nation, organizing as never before in unions and rural shantytowns to protest the destruction of their lives, the deterioration of their standard of living, and the continuation of gang wars, maybe they will set some parallel priorities for constructing a modified language that deliberately includes women as equals to men. Women began to feel encouraged and to see that life can be different - convinced of the validity of women in pastoral ministry. They want to know more and learn more.”[1]

They are saying, “Enough!” to changes that do not change anything.

Here are some ideas to move forward:

Language can be a potent tool in helping to break down the clutches of machismo, of sexism, of patriarchy. One way is the use of inclusive language, for example, in the way God or ‘Dios’ can be made non-gendered, and not commonly attributed as masculine, or use “human beings” instead of “man” or “mankind” - this is a challenge because the Spanish language is a Latin-based Roman language filled with gender-specific words.

The meaning that is placed on violence leads to a variety of reactions that affect how people assess and address violence in their own homes and communities based on how society does not understand all violence as harmful. It is important to know what individuals or groups recognize as violence in their lives. Indeed, how individuals look at violence even justifies or accepts certain types of violence. The process of recognizing its effects on individuals and societies is not only based on the harm of an act of violence, but it is directed by perceptions of power structures within society that inform reactions.

Perhaps, we can begin anew to explore how the Bible portrays women, how Jesus treated women, and how using only masculine images for God distorts and limits our Christian experience. This could be one way Salvadoran women, and women around the world, can discover each their own value and gifts as Christian women and can claim a renewed power and freedom in Christ, and in Spiritual Divinities, specially Mayan, who can inspire us all to greater heights to the true potential of Liberation Theology, or more appropriately, a Spirituality of Liberation, and a Theology of Peace in the present-day challenges of desiring to have lives violence-free.

We can expect wider changes in society and can look to men as allies in the prevention of gender-based violence against women when these efforts are linked to other processes of social transformation and supported, promoted and respected by men. The most significant impact should come from the identification of non-violent masculine models and a cultural consensus to de-ideologize gender based violence, accompanied by a reduction in violence against women.[2]

The lives of Salvadoran women have been hard. Coming from one of the poorest countries of Latin America, violated and displaced, tilling small plots of land for food or working as maids in rich homes, they haul water, struggle, often without the men in their family, to raise their children, these women managed to be part of the profound social transformation happening in El Salvador.

Salvadoran women’s groups have made great strides, organizing as never before, within the resurgent popular opposition movement, since 1987, showing obstacles are surmountable. These women do not see themselves as a “women’s movement” nor do they self-identify as “feminists,” as to them this term suggests women’s liberation as being separate from the responsibility of transforming all El Salvador. They are working toward priorities that benefit all Salvadorans: end hunger, exploitation, capitalist domination, war, repression. They want it not in the future, but now, turning personal tragedy into social action as they raise issues and find solutions for food, equality, discrimination for being a woman in a workplace, domestic violence and child abuse.[3]

When those who suffered the most, who lost so much, still have hope, as Salvadorans do, how can we not have faith and see how God works in mysterious ways, possibly through us, who are God’s “hands and feet” in the world. Through a nation named after The Saviour, this encounter with ‘El Salvador’ and the Spirit of the Divine found in the warm-hearted women and men who sustain hope and the will to live justly and righteously before the Creator and all of creation, we come to believe moreso that God’s Spirit lives in us and sustains us here and now in a Mother Earth filled with hope.

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[1] Kathleen Hayes, Women on the Threshold - Voices of Salvadoran Baptist Women (Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing Inc, 1996).

[2] Larry Madrigal and Walberto Tejeda, ed. Facing Gender-based Violence in El Salvador: Contributions from the Social Psychology of Ignacio Martín-Baró. Feminism & Psychology. 19 (3), (August 2009) pg. 368-374.

[3] Brenda Carter, et al. ed. A Dream Compels Us - Voices of Salvadoran Women, (San Francisco: New Americas Press, 1989), 8.

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