Updated: Dec 11, 2020
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to highlight El Salvador and its relationship with Equanimity Foundation (EQF). EQF is particularly devoted to serving El Salvador due to its Founders’ personal connections to the country. Karen Guevara and Ileana Valle, President and Vice-President of EQF, share Salvadoran family backgrounds. Karen was born in El Salvador, and as a child, she witnessed the extreme devastation and widespread violence during the Salvadoran Civil War. Her formative experiences watching the destruction of communities, and sheltering her brother from the visceral terrors of war, inspired her dedication to studying conflict and security. Today, her goal of creating change in the sectors of security reform and international development are informed by her Salvadoran heritage and lived experiences. Similarly, Ileana Valle is the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, who fled El Salvador at the start of the Civil War. Her parents knew a life in the United States would provide their children a safer and brighter future. This shaped her perspective on the importance of using her privilege to have a positive impact on Salvadoran communities.
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. With a population of approximately 6.4 million, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. According to the World Bank, El Salvador’s GDP growth reached 2.3 percent in 2019 but has since suffered low levels of economic growth, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. From a political perspective, El Salvador has maintained six consecutive demoractic presidential elections with peaceful transitions of power since the end of the civil war in 1992. While the country has historically struggled with extreme poverty and violence, violence reduction initiatives and development campaigns have made great strides in improving the quality of life in El Salvador. A recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) noted the remarkable decrease in violent crime in El Salvador, historically one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with extreme gang violence. ICG reported a nearly 60 percent decrease in homicides in the last year following President Nayib Bukele’s election. This is a significant reduction for the country, which previously held the second highest homicide rate in Latin America, with 51 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants in 2018. Yet, there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be done to build internal capacity and reform its security sector to successfully address crime and violence. High levels of violence continue to force many to take the arduous path of immigrating to other countries for a safer haven. For those who remain, this violence, coupled with extreme levels of poverty, are simply an everyday reality.
EQF is dedicated to addressing the systemic and root causes of violence and poverty in El Salvador. Further, EQF strives to improve the status of women in El Salvador, particularly following the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent rise in vulnerability among Salvadoran women. One area of vulnerability is gender violence, as 67 percent of all Salvadoran women have experienced some form of violence in their lives (e.g. sexual assault, intimate partner violence, physical abuse by family, and more).
EQF understands that addressing these complex issues in El Salvador requires a holistic, multi-pronged approach at varying levels of society. As a start, EQF has successfully conducted programs that address a range of systemic issues. For example, EQF has carried out programming focused on youth art therapy to deal with the impact violence on local communities, as well as providing humanitarian relief as a result of Covid-19 socio-economic devastation. EQF believes in the power of partnering with local communities to identify key needs and developing interventions that place the needs of stakeholders on the ground, at the forefront.
EQF’s mission is inspired by the experiences of its Founders in El Salvador, experiences that enhance the effectiveness and cultural nuance of EQF’s approach to international security and global development. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the diverse voices of our team members and the rich culture and history of El Salvador.
If you are interested in contributing to inclusive and sustainable change, please consider supporting Equanimity Foundation in our efforts to reach underserved and marginalized communities worldwide