Meet Marcela from El Salvador

by Because I am a Girl

In areas of El Salvador, gender-based violence, child marriage and early pregnancy are just some of the challenges facing girls and young women in a society that maintains very strict understandings of the different roles and expected behaviors for men and women.

However, Marcela is a committed to making a difference in her community, by challenging some of these gender norms and assumptions that can often have such a negative impact on her peers. Marcela is part of a project called ‘Cultura de Paz’ (Culture of Peace), where she has been trained to raise awareness among other young people in her community on social issues and challenges. Through a project called VOCES (Voices), Marcela communicates information on the rights of children via media such as radio and video.

Thanks to her efforts, Marcela has even seen change take place in her own home. While her mother worked hard to sell Tortillas in order to send Marcela and her sister to school, her father and brother refused to help with household chores, leaving it to the females of the house. However, after becoming involved in ‘Cultura de Paz’ and ‘VOCES’, she was able to convince her male family members that housework shouldn’t just be a ‘female thing’ and that being a man of ‘quality’ means supporting gender ‘equality’!

Marcela has also circulated information to her neighbors and community on laws that protect children and women, and worked to try to change attitudes and cultural practices that formally saw many girls being denied an education. With more girls being sent to school now in her community, she is proud to be able to see the cycle of discrimination against girls being broken.

While there is still a long way to go, Marcela says, “I learned that being apathetic to everything happening in the community did not contribute to [improving] gender equality. I began to demand my rights and tell others that are our rights no one can remove them. With my leadership I try to encourage others to also be agents of change”