Expert is one of many women leading in disaster prevention in vulnerable El Salvador, where the effects of climate change are already being felt.
Just over a week ago, this meme surfaced on the internet:The meme, titled “Weather Girls,” compares the physical appearances of women weather reporters from the United States, Mexico, China, and El Salvador (Sivar, in slang), and implies that the Salvadoran presenter is unattractive.
What the author of the meme didn’t show, though, is that the woman in question is Sandra Yanira Martínez Tobar, a meteorologist with two decades of experience who works at the Environmental Observatory of the Ministry of Environment (MARN).
Sandra is part of a team of experts who monitor and deliver timely updates about weather, tides, seismic and volcanic activity, and other climate conditions that affect the more than 6 million inhabitants of the Central American country. The Observatory is an important part of the nation’s disaster prevention strategy, especially given that El Salvador is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change-related extreme weather events. In the last twenty years alone – over the same period as Sandra’s career – El Salvador has experienced devastating and deadly hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, mudslides, and drought.
Sandra said that the meme made her laugh because of how unimportant it is. “I’ve been in this career 20 years. I have various specialties… and I’ve always enjoyed it.” Sandra has studied and worked all over the world, including in Costa Rica, Europe, and with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States.
“All of us here at the Environmental Observatory, all of us are specialists. And we are all well-trained in our fields. Thanks to social media, [our findings] are shared with the public and people are very informed.”
Mario Martinez, a radio presenter at our partners’ community radio station Mangrove Radio, wrote in support of Sandra: “Thanks to Yanira, we are able to keep our communities and listeners informed. Women like her strengthen our efforts. Onward, Yanira, and don’t let anyone try to compare you; be yourself and that’s it.”
Sandra has long been a leader for women’s empowerment in the workforce:
“In the 1990s I had the opportunity to collaborate on an initiative to integrate women into public institutions so that they could have positions like the ones they have now and have equitable salaries comparable to those of men. And thank God since then women have broken into roles in public institutions and government at the same level as men.”
Of physical appearance, Sandra says:
“Well, when you are sure of yourself, the truth is that physical appearance, at least for me, is secondary. I’ve always said that if what I do doesn’t serve other people, I do it in vain… A phrase I’ve always kept in mind is that a woman isn’t just physical; a woman is mind, heart, soul, feeling, preparation, and achievement. That’s what we women are. In this country, I’ve known scientific, intellectual women who would leave anyone in awe who asked them who they are and what they do. I know them. Here in my office there are many. And we should feel proud as women that we have the power to do that.”
Sandra is a model for us all, and her career is a testament to the immense contributions of women in tackling global issues like sustainable development and climate change. Sandra, we salute you!
Women from the Ministry of Environment, including Minister Lina Pohl, came out with a video of support for women like Sandra who are more than their appearance: “Because we women are tired of being judged for our appearance, #YoSoySandraYanira [#IAmSandraYanira].”