Presenting: Women of Vision
After getting to know Fudem and the country a bit better, I was finally ready to get to work. Today we started the greatest part of our work in El Salvador – the evaluation of the “Women of Vision” initiative.
Women of Vision is a new social program sponsored by Fudem and CharityVision to both empower the women of El Salvador and increase visual health throughout the country. In El Salvador, the fight for women’s rights is just beginning to surface. Over half of the cases of violence against women are attributed to domestic abuse – with most women never finishing high school for lack of economy and family pressure, many are left dependent in violent relationships that all too often result in death. Paired with the fact that the national government is turning a “blind eye” to visual health for years, Women of Vision is an opportunity to both eradicate needless blindness and empower rural women with a professional purpose and steady income.
This pilot program works with the local mayor of Atiquizaya – a small farming municipality about a 1 hour drive outside of San Salvador. The female mayor has carefully selected 19 women from Atiquizaya that have shown leadership in their communities to receive visual health training and become promoters of visual health in their large rural communities. Each women of vision comes from one of the 19 cantons, or rural communities. Once they have finished their 2 week training, they will be the visual health experts of their communities. Armed with 20 pairs of glasses, sight charts, and other tools for success, they will be Fudem-certified to prescribe reading glasses and refer both prescription and surgery cases to the central Fudem clinic.
As part of our evaluation of the program’s success, we had the incredible opportunity to meet the women in their homes for interviews. All of the women live anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours from the city center – on dirt roads in dangerous gang territory. Most of the women lived in sheet metal shacks with dirt floors and no gas or electricity. What surprised us even more, however, was their dedication to breaking the poverty cycle and giving better opportunities to the coming generation. Varying from ages 19 to 40, each woman had a unique story to tell in how they became part of Women of Vision and their hopes and dreams for the future. And so, without further ado, I’ll let them speak for themselves:
Sophia, the youngest Woman of Vision, is 19 years old and still lives with her parents. In addition to helping her community, she believes that participating in Women of Vision will give her the experience and opportunity to further her education and reach her goal of becoming a nurse. It is inspiring for us to see a young woman demonstrating leadership in her community.
“Many times we women get depressed because we feel like we can’t overcome the obstacles that are before us, but my message to all women my age is that we can succeed and have opportunities too.”
After the hard life Evenlin has had, she is determined to better her life and those of her daughters. She never once played with a doll or had a toy as she was constantly taking care of her siblings. At the age of 9, she started working as a baker and then moved away from her family at 14 to be a housekeeper. “My dream for my kids is that they do better than me. That one day they have a better job than I could get. My dream is that they study and move forward with the help of God.”
As we spend time with these women, it is easy to see how much growth is taking place in their confidence and attitude. Every woman I have spoken with has yearned for the opportunity to study and learn – and we have the amazing chance to watch them realize that dream every day as they receive the visual health training from Fudem staff. This program isn’t just about restoring sight, it’s restoring the vision these women have of who they are and who they can become. It won’t be long before they’ve graduated from the program, received their supplies, and are off to start their businesses and eliminate visual health maladies for their communities – one person at a time.