Lutheran Peace Fellowship

Women's Issues in Central America
by Gail Brodersen-Heins

I don't know if you know it, but "we live in a nation where women live in subordination." A woman named America was speaking to our study tour. She could have been from almost any of the world's countries.

America works at "Las Dignas" a women's organization in San Salvador, the crowded capital city of El Salvador. We learned of three types of advocacy work of Dignas: 1. for legislative action to better the lives of Salvadoran women; 2. with those in positions of leadership in business, churches, schools, and government; and 3. with women themselves, where Dignas does most of its work.

In the bright, two story office building bustling with phone calls and women working at computers there are offices, counseling rooms, and rooms used for support groups.

"We have held up the women's platform' from the 1994 elections" said America, "there were ten topics we wanted addressed; we've mostly organized around violence against women and political participation."

Dignas and other women's groups have proposed a citizen security plan. San Salvador has a serious crime problem, including crime against women. "We attend to women who have been victims of violence," said America. "We can help women make claims, but we want them to see the need for inner as as well as outer change... to help women understand their rights for dignity and life."

When asked if there were sectors in which women are more resistant to progressive work, we were given two examples: Women who were married in the Church seem to be more resistant to looking at changing their lives no matter how painful they are. Also, professional women resist the notion that they could be subject to violence. These women often blame themselves if they become victims.

The Peace Accords following the twelve-year war in El Salvador should have addressed women's issues more, according to America. During the resistance, women took great leadership roles and made great progress, afterwards, many were subordinated again, especially in rural areas where they were "put back in the house."

The war also caused families to be separated. When it was over some women were left with guilty feelings because their children were dead, or they didn't know where they were.

On our trip we met strong, courageous women and men. They touched me deeply with their struggle and their hope for a better future; their compassion and sense of community. As I return to my own ministry, I feel inspired by the women and men we met in El Salvador and Nicaragua. With God's help they persist.

Gail Brodersen-Heins serves as co-pastor with her husband, Rich, of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Watertown, Wisc.

back to Fall 1998 newsletter

LPF contact info -


Contact LPF and make a gift Contact LPF and make a gift LPF´s email -