How investing in women is improving lives in El Salvador

Deysi Román at her stall in the municipal market. Photo: Wilton Castillo/Oxfam
Deysi Román at her stall in the municipal market. Photo: Wilton Castillo/Oxfam

There is growing evidence that an investment in women is an investment in a community's future. Deysi Román, now 43 years old, is beginning to understand the importance of her voice.

Deysi is one of the producers in San José Villanueva improving her livelihood and participating in a project for empowerment and access to markets, land, and seeds. This project is carried out by Oxfam in El Salvador, and the Federation of Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in the Central Region (FECORACEN by its Spanish acronym).


"I have had to go through so much to get to where I am today... Now I feel as if I’ve awoken."

Deysi Román is happy to have begun attending the trainings held at the FECORACEN office. She and her family now run a stall at the market in San José Villanueva on Sunday mornings, and operate a store out of their home.

A male-dominated society

"You grow up thinking that you aren't good for anything." Román shared how her father would constantly tell her that there was no use in her going to school, and that the only thing she was good for in life was to get ready to have children and take care of them.

Deysi only studied through the first grade and half of second grade. Since then, she hadn't thought she should do anything other than being a stay-at-home mother.

Feeling empowered

When the Los Naranjos Cooperative and the Women's Committee in her community began to come together, Deysi realized that there was more that she could aspire to. "I'm not afraid to speak up anymore; I know my rights and my responsibilities. I was the President of the Cooperative. Now I am the Secretary of the Supervisory Board. I have learned to relate to other people from other places. I have hosted foreigners in my home, and have had the opportunity to talk with them. Most of all, I feel free."

The producers of San José Villanueva are improving their livelihoods thanks to greater access to markets, land, and seeds, along with greater support and recognition from the public authorities, consumers, and other associations. These relationships have been crucial in supporting sustainable rural agriculture, and social and economic development.

Improving livelihoods

Deysi recounts, laughing, "The first time I went to the market, my husband said, 'So who is going to take care of our daughter?' I said: 'You are,' and I walked out." Deysi confirms now that her husband has helped her as she has joined into this project.

At first, she went alone to sell limes, beans, and corn. Now her husband and youngest daughter always join her at the market as well, and they have increased their wares, also selling fish, vegetables, and other crops from the local farmers in the area. "Before, all of the jocotes would just go rotten. Now we go out to sell them, and we can make a little more," Román noted as part of the progress she has made so far.

To date, nearly 5,200 producers and cooperative members from eight municipalities of the Department of La Libertad have improved their living conditions thanks to the income gained through establishing a bulk market and a network of fair, alternative, and solidarity-based farmers' markets.

Published September 2013.

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