Youth Activists in El Salvador Take Stand against Street Harassment

by Vins

For young adults, street harassment is an ongoing obstacle that some face every day, American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Rebecca Sandoval reported in January 2022. Sandoval’s report focused on a group of young women from El Salvador who started a campaign, “Las calles también son de nosotras” (“The streets are also ours”), in 2020. The report targets street harassment as the primary cause for creating an unsafe community for women.

The teenage girls, ranging in age from 12-16, who started the campaign in 2020 are from San Ramón, El Salvador. Sandoval wrote, “Like other communities, San Ramón has been classified by the government as ‘zona roja’ (red zone) because of ongoing gang violence.” With high levels of violence and “street harassment being one of the most pressing problems affecting them in their community,” the girls saw an opportunity to speak up and make a difference. Sandoval interviewed one of the activists who said, “… We seek to make visible that street harassment is violence, which adolescents experience daily.” Unwanted gestures, comments, or in some cases invasions of personal space have become a normal, daily encounter for girls. According to Sandoval, “For many of them, street harassment is something they experience walking to school, taking the bus, or in other parts of their daily lives.” The campaign has allowed these girls to voice their opinions, but it has also been a learning experience for them as well.

AFSC conducted a survey to see what the teens have learned from the past year during this process. One girl stated, “That we can also exercise liberal and fair decision-making for women.” Agreeing with that statement, another girl said they should “organize spaces where women’s problems are taken into account day by day.” The purpose of their campaign is not only to stop street harassment to create a comfortable community for women, but also to promote women’s rights.

The “Las calles también son de nosotras” campaign has not been covered by national news in the United States. Although there is limited coverage on their efforts to stop street harassment, they still have supporters and social media to help promote their campaign. Colectiva Pioneras de la Paz is one community organization the teen creators have partnered with to raise awareness regarding street harassment and how it relates to women’s rights. The organization uses its Facebook page as their primary social media outlet to promote the campaign. The creators post videos and messages on social media to “highlight their demands nationwide.” Although their nationwide demands have not yet been met, they still have AFSC and local partner Asociacion Nuevo Amanecer de El Salvador (ANADES), which provides workshops on human rights issues, primarily women and children’s rights. The workshops allow the teens to decide on what their next steps are to advance those rights. New members have joined the Colectiva Pioneras de la Paz because the organization is part of RENAS, the Network of Children and Adolescents of El Salvador. The network provides the participants with opportunities to associate with other youth groups working on children’s rights in other areas.

Source: Rebecca Sandoval, “Speaking Out Against Street Harassment,” American Friends Service Committee, January 21, 2022.

Student Researcher: Alyssa Scott (Salisbury University)

Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Cox (Salisbury University)

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