El Salvador: One town’s stand against domestic violence

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    Aminta Molina sweeps the entrance to her home, which bears a sign from the Feminist Collective for Local Development. The sign reads: "In this house we want a life without violence towards women."
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A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

SUCHITOTO, EL SALVADOR – Time seems to have stood still in the colonial town of Suchitoto, about 30 miles from El Salvador’s frenetic capital, with its quiet cobblestone streets and perfectly preserved architecture. But now its white-washed walls are adorned with a 21st-century message: “In this house we want a life without violence toward women.”

The words, which are accompanied by a bird and flower, the symbol of Suchitoto, forms part of a campaign by the Feminist Collective for Local Development to “elevate societal rejection of domestic violence, and make it a subject we should all be worried about,” says local feminist activist Morena Herrera.

It seems to have worked: The overall impression, reading the message on home after home – where women sweep their front porches and men gather in rocking chairs to talk on lazy afternoons – is one of camaraderie around an issue that is often overlooked in macho cultures in Latin America. In El Salvador, which contends with skyrocketing crime rates from street gangs, violence against women is even less prioritized, says Ms. Herrera.

According to the US State Department’s 2008 report on human rights, El Salvador received 6,051 reports of domestic violence last year, compared with 5,906 complaints in 2007.

The Feminist Collective for Local Development painted the walls in January with the help of the mayor’s office, and they hope to extend the program to other municipalities. Aminta Molina, whose front wall carries the motif, says she supports any initiative that gives women a boost. “Women used to have no power,” she says. “Now we are fully equals.”

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