For International Women’s Day, Field Coordinator Douglas Chica interviewed Delmy Josefina Viera Argueta, a farmer and a leader of the Local Group of San Hilario. In 2015, she traveled to California with several Salvadoran colleagues and Adele Negro of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies to participate in the 2015 EcoFarm conference on environmentally and socially sustainable agriculture. One of the many everyday “s-heroes” of the Lower Lempa, Niña Delmy, as she’s called, talks about the importance of women participating in community decision-making and development processes, and the need to continue forming local leadership.
The first step to be able to participate in La Coordinadora is, on a community level, to belong to the organizational structure of Local Groups, where different community leaders – men and women, young people and adults – participate. We participate in La Coordinadora in an active manner in capacity-building (like training in organic agriculture), community organization, and strategic planning processes.
As a coordinated and coordinating social movement, we also accompany the struggle in the street in order to assert our rights and responsibilities, because we know that together we can transform of our communities.
How do women participate in decision-making?
Thanks to the various leadership formation processes facilitated by La Coordinadora, the Mangrove Association, and EcoViva in the municipality of Jiquilisco, we’ve been able to form councilors who represent the communities in municipal councils, we’ve been able to form legislators who represent the department in the Legislative Assembly, we’ve trained youth to run Radio Mangle. In the majority of the Local Groups that make up La Coordinadora, women are those who run the organization, following the example of Carmencita Argueta, the president of the Mangrove Association. The participation of women in municipal and national structures allows decision-making in the management and creation of new initiatives aimed at women.
Do you think it’s important for women to participate in organizational structures?
Of course! Women manage their household’s economic resources and we have the ability to organize events and coordinate in the community. And we have the ability to influence the education of boys, girls, young people, and adults. In terms of our knowledge, we are farmers by birth.
And it’s important [for women to participate in organizational structures] because it allows us to investigate and make our own decisions and realize that we are capable of changing society for the better.
How can we increase the participation of women in decision-making spaces?
This gets better as women discover that they are capable of transforming the impossible into possible. We must continue to identify and train leadership. Continuing to teach both women and men about gender equity, the more awareness, the better. La Coordinadora, which has driven much of the organization in the Lower Lempa, has enabled the many, many women, young and old to learn and gain experience, through participation.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It is a special date where we recognize that women have the same abilities as men, something made possible thanks to years-long struggle. Today we do a better job of taking into account the participation of women in public office, government jobs, and there’s greater participation at the community, municipal, departmental, and even national levels.
We’ve shown that women aren’t only capable of taking care of our daughters and sons but also that we can contribute greatly to the country in planning and managing social development.
We’ve achieved a lot but there’s still a ways to go. Women, remember we are capable of transforming society regardless of how difficult it may seem.