Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Letter From El Salvador: Day Two- Sihua Batucada

In the afternoon of the 26th, Northwest students and teachers met with an empowered group of young women receives trainings in sexual and reproductive health from the Institute of the Woman, IMU. These young women have also formed their own drum band, the Sihua Batucada. SHARE supports these women with partial high school scholarships.

After a full morning of exchange, we continued to Suchitoto,
where we shared a particularly good lunch with a group of young
Salvadoran women who, not only go from town to town talking about sexual
and reproductive rights in the face of criticism, but also have their
own drum and dance group called Sihua Batucada. We got to know a little
bit about them through intermingling between chewing at the lunch table,
but even more so when they presented their cause through a presentation.
This was a particularly interesting meeting, primarily because El
Salvador is a notoriously religious country; the country’s name means
“The Savior”, or Jesus Christ. In such a strong presence of religion,
talking about sexual and reproductive rights, as well as sexuality, can
be considered “taboo”. Abortion is illegal here, and re-emphasized as
such many times in the national constitution. The women talked about
this challenge, and how they have been criticized on numerous occasions.
At one point, the criticism and lies being spread about them were so
strong that they thought the group would have to stop meeting.
Fortunately, they overcame the negative attention, and now pride in informing women (and men) all over about their sexual rights, pregnancy prevention, sexuality, and the issue of violence toward women. At one point, a member of our group brought up the question of
homosexuality: Is it illegal? If not, is the gay lesbian population as
marginalized as it is in the US? The answer was that no, homosexuality
is not illegal, but the population is most definitely marginalized, and
even more so, targeted. Last year, there were a number of assassinations
within the gay and lesbian community, which has rightly prompted a
stronger movement for sexual rights. The group fully supports this
movement, informing and assisting communities about the rights of all,
straight, lesbian, gay, or otherwise.

Unfortunately, the group is prohibited to speak at a number of
schools; some older members of communities frown on their work, saying,
quite falsely, that the girls only want to go from town to town so that
they can have many boyfriends at once. Of course this isn’t true, but
sadly, it is what they face in light of their work. After being
inspired by their perseverance, they honored us with a drum/dance
performance in the grass behind the restaurant. It was great; various
students learned to play the drums and participated with the group,
while other members of the delegation danced along. It was a very good
time had by all. What was really amazing was to think that the majority
of these girls are only 16 or 17 years old. They have an incredibly
clear vision and sense of self worth, an incredible talent for the drum,
and are quite an inspiration in the face of adversity.

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