El Salvador is the geographically smallest country and one of the poorest countries in Central America. Violence is a major problem and girls and young women are particularly vulnerable. Although 2017 saw a decrease in the number of murder cases, the country still has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Politically, the Salvadoran community is very polarized and in recent years has been marked by a leak of corruption allegations against former presidents, state attorneys and judges of the Supreme Court. The country’s economy is dependent on money from emigrants who work mainly in the United States. Lacking good prospects, many children and young people are forced to move to other cities or emigrate illegally. More than 18,000 people flee El Salvador every year to find safety elsewhere, and almost 90 percent are young people. Plan International works to give children and young people security and opportunities in the country.
Widespread poverty means that many children do not receive a sufficiently nutritious diet, which leads to one in five children falling behind in development. It is not just about neglected development purely physically but also cognitively and mentally, and many perform poorly in school.
Plan International works to improve parents’ knowledge and capacity to cook nutritious food. We also work to ensure that families have good access to care clinics and follow-up of the children’s development – especially during the first years.
They create their own workplace
Before, no one worked here. Now we have a pond full of fish that we grow and sell. The whole village cheers on us!
Anna Isabel, fish farmer
In Cabañas, Plan International has projects that focus on giving families the opportunity to earn their own money and create their own jobs. Through vocational training and courses in entrepreneurship, participants gain insight into where the jobs are and what is needed to create a business model that can secure income and be a safe workplace.
Security and protection against violence for girls
No more children should get married
Child marriage is one of the most serious violations of children’s rights. We have worked hard and long to change the law. Much remains to be done: culture and norms will only change if all Salvadorans understand the harm this practice is doing to young girls.
Carmen Elena Aleman – Country Manager Plan International El Salvador
In August 2017, Parliament adopted the proposal to amend the Marriage Act so that the 18-year age limit for marriage became absolute. In the past, exceptions have been possible when a girl has been pregnant.
Football and gender equality on the schedule
11-year-old Flor has been involved in several of Plan International’s projects. Now she is learning more about gender equality to become part of changing society so that girls and boys can grow up on equal terms.
Flor lives in Chalatenango in northern El Salvador, where Plan International has worked for 40 years. She lives in a brick house with her father, mother and two younger brothers. The family also has a parrot, chickens, ducks, chickens and a horse. Flor likes to go to school, she likes math best.
Right now, Flor is involved in a project where children can learn more about gender equality and how boys and girls have different opportunities in a society. A study conducted by Plan International to see how boys view gender equality showed, among other things, that 44 percent of those surveyed in El Salvador believed that it is part of men’s nature to be violent.
The project that Flor participates in includes both girls and boys to try to achieve long-term and lasting change. The idea is that the participants should understand how the norms and the culture that exists in society affect what opportunities girls and boys get. Participants meet every week to learn more about leadership, gender equality and group dynamics. They analyze themselves and children’s situation together. But football is also on the schedule!
Plan International’s staff on site believe that Flor has great potential to become a spokesperson for human rights and a role model for others.
– All the children in the school are my friends. When I grow up, I will know two languages, maybe even more, then I will teach new students these languages, says Flor.
Capital: San Salvador
Population: 6 million
Life expectancy: 73 years
Infant mortality rate: 13 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 91%
Proportion of women in Parliament: 32.1%