Asociación Agropecuaria Salvadoreña (AGROSAL) is an agricultural association working to support the rural poor in El Salvador. Its principal goal is to improve agricultural production and food security. In addition to farming and livestock programs, AGROSAL promotes healthier communities through workshops and trainings that empower and educate the families of its members. In 2005, AGROSAL joined forces with Oxfam America and three other development and women’s rights organizations to address the vulnerability of women in El Salvador. This gender-based violence prevention network challenges the government to provide better protection; trains and mobilizes women and men to change the machista culture in the country; and raises public consciousness through the media, street theatre and other public events. In 2011, AGROSAL and Oxfam America will be implementing Saving for Change, a community finance program that will further empower women by providing them access to savings and loan services.
Both AGROSAL and Oxfam America see the arts as a valuable way to engage communities in community finance and prevention of violence against women. ArtCorps is collaborating with AGROSAL and Oxfam America to incorporate the arts into their programs, train field staff and build local leadership.
Rural communities in El Salvador frequently do not have access to financial services and when limited resources exit, community members often lack the financial literacy to benefit from them. This makes it difficult for poor families to obtain the capital they need in order to engage in activities that could help them break out of poverty, such as starting a micro-enterprise or buying a few goats.
While many women in El Salvador struggle with extreme poverty, they are also vulnerable to violence. In El Salvador, one out of every three women is a victim of violence. Young women between the ages of 15 and 29 years are most often targeted, typically by male relatives and teachers. Despite growing awareness of violence against women in Latin America, public policies still lack a gender perspective—police and prosecutors continue to use discriminatory terms and practices in cases of murdered women and domestic abuse.
2011: Originally from Alaska, ArtCorps Artist Naphtali Fields recently completed her studies in Bilingual Theater, a degree that combines her passions for writing, theater and Hispanic language and culture. She particularly enjoys working with women and has carried out two extensive projects addressing femininity: one in Chile, the other in Chicago. In El Salvador, ArtCorps Artist Naphtali Fields is focusing her work on advancing the rights of women by strengthening Oxfam’s Saving for Change Program and developing local leaders who work to prevent violence against women.
- Youth Leaders Acting for Peace: Naphtali is using theater to cultivate leadership and empower 15 Salvadoran youth. Throughout the year the youth will meet once a week to create plays related to gender violence and other problems they hope to affect in their communities. The youth will present these plays in public spaces as well as schools.
- Women Leaders for Change: In communities where Naphtali works, the women are already organized in their community savings groups; but they lack confidence, self-esteem and leadership. Through bi-monthly creative workshops, these women are building the foundation to be community leaders.
- Uniting Students, Teachers and Parents: Naphtali will be working twice a month in three schools to engage with students, teachers and parents in preventing domestic violence. She will do this by establishing a group of students who will use theater to educate their peers on domestic violence and collaborating with AGROSAL to provide creative and informative workshops for teachers and parents.
- Creative Leadership: Saving for Change Promoters are people who work to educate community members on the benefits of participating in a community savings group. Each month Naphtali will provide workshops that build confidence, cultivate creativity and transfer skills that allow the promoters to better engage community members while conveying important information.
2010: ArtCorps Artist Maria Antonietta Inostroza Garabito, a Chilean theater artist, conducted the pilot for this project. She collaborated with Escena X, a local theater group, strengthening both their capacity to use improv theater and their role in Oxfam’s Gender-based Violence Prevention Campaign. Antonietta also trained field staff from Oxfam’s partner organizations to integrate Art for Social Action into their education and outreach programs.
- Escena X Theater Group: In support of the Escena X Theater Group, Antonietta worked with youth to develop technical theater skills and produce plays that focus on violence prevention. This theater company will become a resource that Oxfam can utilize to educate and engage communities in sex education and prevention of violence against women.
- In 15 Minutes: In order to contribute to the sustainability of ArtCorps’ work, Antonietta trained 10 members of Oxfam’s field staff to create and present 15-minute plays about violence prevention throughout the country in the municipalities where they work. This will give Oxfam partners hands-on experience applying creative tools in their programming.
"I arrived lacking in so many aspects, but before the end of the three days, the harvest was abundance. The training has completely shaped and enriched me with a world of knowledge and creative skills that will not only be useful to my organization, but for the communities where we work. My sincere thanks and appreciation to the facilitators who, in just three days, were able transform me from a leader to a creative leader." - Dr. Felix Lawir, Director, Nature Care Cameroon
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