I have spent this week in San Salvador, as much to get better from having a skin parasite as to help out with the mountain of work that needed doing here in the national office. The week has been full of meetings of all sizes and configurations, and it has been interesting to see what the day-to-day work of Sister Cities looks like.
The role of Sister Cities is to facilitate solidarity relationships between US and rural El Salvador communities with the purpose of promoting social justice and sustainable development in both countries. That’s a mouthful. But how does one do that?? Sister Cities itself, made up of a network of committees and supporters around the US, is staffed by 2 ladies here in El Salvador and 1 in the US. On the ground in El Salvador, Sister Cities is part of a network of progressive organizations working to improve the conditions of human rights, health, agriculture, democracy, gender rights, non-violence, etc. in the country. Check out the glossary section for more info on some of these organizations.
The main organization they work through is called CRIPDES, a Salvadoran organization that is charged with development in rural areas. CRIPDES works in 7 of the 14 regions of the country, and their main goal is to support the organizational process in communities; helping communities themselves identify and advocate for their needs. Some of CRIPDES’s current areas of focus are:
- Political Advocacy (topics include water rights, food sovereignty, anti-mining, tax reform, election observation)
- Youth Organization
- Human Rights
- Solidarity and Human Rights in Honduras
- Women’s Organizing
- Risk Management
CRIPDES does their work on the ground through regional organizers (who are, of course, overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated, but they are true heroes in this country) working with the Junta Directivas, or community councils. Sister Cities does practically nothing outside of CRIPDES, because CRIPDES is made up of Salvadorans, and dedicated to meeting needs as defined by communities, using methods defined by communities.
But beyond CRIPDES, Sister Cities works with a whole boatload of other organizations, only a few of which are listed on the glossary page. This week was spent in meetings because the daily work of Estela and Alexandra, the staff members here in El Salvador, is about knowing what’s going on in the country, in each region, and in individual communities. It’s about knowing who is working on what, and how we can come together to support common goals.
A great illustration of this connectedness came in the form of 10 youth organizers who were arrested in December and just released this week, thanks to a press conference held by Sister Cities and supported by several other organizations. They were arrested for suspected gang involvement, a common problem for youths who are involved in the organization of their communities, the very youth who are actively working against the gang culture of violence and destruction.
More info on their case coming soon 🙂
So, moral of the story, sometimes doing incredible work means sitting in lots of meetings and working slowly because of the interruptions of all the people you’re connected with. But it’s such, such good work.