Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where Drumming and Sex Ed Meet in El Salvador

About an hour northwest of San Salvador, in the small community of Ciudadela, a group of high school girls meets to do two things: to discuss sexual and reproductive rights, and to play the drums. They attend trainings on how to educate their female peers about pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS, the rights of women to make decisions that affect their bodies, and the right to enjoy one’s sexuality. And then they rehearse as the Sihua Batucada, the only all female youth drum band in the country of El Salvador. The poise, strength, and intelligence of these young women took my breath away and brought me to the edge of tears. A few minutes with these girls will remind even the most cynical that another world is indeed possible.

On my recent trip to El Salvador, I had the opportunity to meet with just five of the fifteen of these young women who are part of a youth leadership and development project supported by SHARE and the Salvadoran women’s organization IMU. The girls explained the program to us—they receive training on important sexual and reproductive issues that affect women and girls, and then they commit to training at least 3 other female peers in their community. As an integral part of the leadership development component, they have formed the batucada (drum band). According to the girls, being part of the batucada boosts their confidence and reinforces their sense of belonging to a team. One girl explained that her new self-assurance helps her in talking to the peers she trains. Another stated that playing music is a way to for her to enjoy her sexuality in a safe space. A third said “It feels really good to be really good at something.”

And they are really good! Watch a short clip below: 

(To see a longer version of this song, click here.)

But neither drumming nor talking about women’s sexual rights are typical or widely accepted activities for a Salvadoran high school girl. As a result, the girls’ pioneering work has not gone unnoticed—at least one girl has been threatened with expulsion for talking about condoms at school, and critics have called the girls “prostitutes” and started nasty rumors about them. People criticized them for drumming at marches and demonstrations, spreading lies about the causes they were supporting. But amazingly enough, these setbacks have only deepened their commitment to their work and helped to clarify the important reasons behind it. When asked how the rumors and the critics have affected them, one of the girls smiled and responded, “Well, it was hard at first, but really they just made us stronger and brought us together.” Their persistence and dedication has paid off. Now their communities and their families are proud of them, and more young women in their area have knowledge of their rights and choices when it comes to their sexual health.

These young women are an inspiration and a model for girls everywhere. SHARE is lucky to be able to accompany them and learn from them. ¡Viva la Sihua Batucada!

--Sara Schultz, Operations Manager

Help us support these young women again next year by making a donation to SHARE here! Want more information? Email sharesf@share-elsalvador.org to get on our eNewsletter list.

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