By Cheryl Ackman
Today we traveled for an hour to San Luis Ranchos, along narrow and winding mountainous roads. We stared in awe at the vistas and gorges of tropical green forests along the way.
Arriving in a remote village, we were so excited to meet the women at the small center, made of metal walls and roof, which is supported by CIS and SEW (Salvadorean Enterprises for Women). We were greeted with open arms and huge smiles by Delmy, the community women’s organizer, and her team of four other mothers from the local area. Also, with them were two scholarship students who are in the process of attending university through the generosity of CIS. The women shared their stories and told us what their participation in the co-op (dying Indigo and sewing school uniforms for government contracts) has given them. A long list, ranging from organizational skills to improved self-esteem, as well as improvement in their family’s economic situation, which has provided independence for them as women and a way for their children to attend school.
After a nice sharing of organizational history and personal stories from them and our group, we went on a tour of three of their homes near by. Dirt floors, wires hanging with light bulbs, wood smoke fires in barrels in the kitchen, and the women presenting their beautiful children to us with such pride.
We then went to Delmy’s home to celebrate her 45th birthday and eat a special El Salvadorian bean soup and tortillas that her 76- year-old mother had been cooking for four hours. After singing Happy Birthday in Spanish and sharing cake with 3 generations of her family we headed back to the center to learn how to dye Indigo garments. There’s a very lengthy process to prepare and dye one small garment—sew, tie, dip, oxygenate, dip (three to nine more times) and then untie and dry in the sun, before the final product can be displayed. A true artform that these women take very seriously!!! After, we were able to shop from their small display to support their artisanship.
What struck me most today was the women’s pride in having work and a home, along with a way to provide for their families. This women’s empowerment group allows them to forget some of their life’s problems and feel support and strength through the other women in their village, as well as improving their family’s way of life. At the end of the day, the gratitude that the women expressed for what DFW is doing brought some of us to tears. This was an experience that will never be forgotten. My dream for these women is that they continue to have a voice in their community and be able to gain more respect from the men, as well as reap the rewards of their hard work!!!