You are a girl caught in the crossfire. In your day-to-day reality, masculinity can be associated with violence, and conflict is too often resolved through brute force. In the process, women are often marginalized and the cycle of poverty is perpetuated.
Over time, the elevated levels of crime, gang violence, and instability have created a culture where violence is the norm in El Salvador. Girls are often in danger of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, resulting in many being sheltered from the outside world. Girls’ mobility and access to education and extra-curricular activities are often restricted as a result.
It is not enough for girls to speak out about this alone. They need male allies to become role models in their communities by stepping up, changing their behavior, and taking responsibility for their actions. Working together, girls and boys can become powerful agents for change.
By supporting the Champions of Change project, we can affect 2,100 girls and boys directly and 18,000 indirectly in El Salvador to help alleviate gender inequality and violence. Your partnership with Plan International USA can help boys and men examine and change sexist behaviors in their families and communities to support girls and champion their rights. At the same time, girls will be provided safe spaces, protection through peer networks and access to mentors, and leadership opportunities. Champions of Change has already reached thousands of children in nine countries and is shifting the tide in support of gender equality and empowerment.
Adolescent boys are partnering with girls to bring about this change in El Salvador. Boys are taking part in intergenerational training sessions, through which they are rethinking deeply-held beliefs about what it means to be masculine. They examine gender bias, sexual behavior, and non-violent conflict resolution strategies to transform their communities.
Girls and boys also participate in coeducational activities like Champions of Change soccer leagues. In El Salvador, soccer is a national pastime and rite of passage for boys, but girls are often excluded and sidelined. However, the mentoring, coaching, and inclusive curriculum of Champions of Change engages, educates, and empower boys AND girls. The project aims to tackle gender inequality in soccer games that promote girls’ participation. Girls are able to take part in a safe environment where they are valued and can actively learn. They have access to enjoyable, safe leadership opportunities that build self-esteem. Teamwork, inclusion, mutual respect, and, of course, fun are at the center of the project.
Together, we can help level the playing field in El Salvador by breaking the cycle of poverty and violence through community engagement, collaboration, and equal opportunities for girls. Through the Champions of Change project, girls and boys are working together to beat the odds and fulfill their true potential, becoming empowered allies and ambassadors of change in their communities.