El Salvador 2012 trip diary: The women of Pajaro Flor

By Ruthann Marquis

Visiting the women of Pajaro Flor in Suchitoto today was like visiting a success story that is written in Dining for Women language. Although not a program supported by DFW, it is a clear example of strong women taking a stand for their rights and empowering women in their community to better themselves and their families.

This group was founded in 1991 near the end of the Civil War in El Salvador when it was seen as an important time for women in the history of their country. The founders of Pajaro Flor seized the opportunity to help women access land of their own, increase the awareness of domestic violence and strongly denounce it, and encourage women to participate in their local communities and governments. Over the years, although it has been a long and arduous process, their focus remains on women’s health and reproductive rights, eradication of domestic violence, encouraging the organizational strength of women and economic solidarity.

The area that touched me most deeply is their campaign against domestic violence. They are active within their community, raising awareness among the women and working with the police through education and training. On a grassroots level, in a door-to-door, face-to-face approach they talk to the residents about the impacts of domestic violence and how it affects the entire family. They seek a commitment and ask permission from those that live within those walls to stencil a picture of a bird and flower (Suchitoto means town of bird and flower) with the following statement right outside their front door: In this house we want a life without violence against women.

After we left this inspiring group of women and travelled through the town, I saw many stencils outside many doors making that bold and life-enhancing statement. It wasn’t a poster that could be ripped down. It wasn’t done in tempera paint that could be washed away. It was in permanent paint. I thought it took such courage to have that painted for all to see as their neighbors passed by and as a reminder each time the family entered their home.

May it be so for the women of Suchitoto and for the world.