Corina López de Mena is the Donations Coordinator for the Crime and Violence Prevention Project in El Salvador. In honor of International Women’s Day 2014, we asked for her thoughts on women in her country and her profession, and what inspires her.
Question: Please explain in what ways your program involves women.
Answer: Our program in El Salvador focuses on crime and violence prevention at the municipal and community level in 20 municipalities and more than 115 communities throughout the country.
Many women who live in these communities are actively participating in our program activities. They identify problem areas that need to be addressed by the program and activities that will contribute to achieve the main project goal, which is to prevent youth from participating in crime related activities.
There are representatives from national and local government institutions such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, as well as other related public institutions who participate in the program. A large number of these representatives are women and their participation in all phases of this program is essential.
A large percentage of the beneficiaries of the program will be young women who are at risk in their communities and who will be involved in activities such as vocational training, micro-business development, sports, youth clubs, and in many other activities oriented towards achieving better use of their free time.
In general, women are present at all levels and in all areas of the program – at the technical, administrative, and management levels – to ensure that all program activities are carried out in the best way possible.
Q: As a woman, what is it like to work on these issues?
A: Having worked with different programs addressing different types of issues, I find that you need to involve yourself as much as possible in order to understand what your role is and work with other staff members to find the right solutions to whatever task is at hand. Being able to work with others and respecting differences and viewpoints is important. Learning to work in difficult and sometimes dangerous surroundings is a must.
Q: What is it like to be a woman in the country you work in?
A: I feel blessed to be a Salvadoran and to live in El Salvador, where I have been able to achieve many professional and family goals. Women deal with many challenges — in the home, in the workplace, and social environment. The country is striving to overcome post-war difficulties, such as gangs, and violence, which create a dangerous environment. Support from family and friends is important in order to overcome difficulties. Many families leave the country in order to achieve educational and professional goals. Having a job and a steady income is very important to Salvadoran women, but jobs are scarce and many women are unable to find them. Life is not easy, but overcoming challenges makes life in El Salvador worthwhile.
Q: The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Inspiring Change.” What changes have you helped make possible that you are proud of?
A: Working in many USAID-funded programs in El Salvador has made it possible for me to contribute to changing the lives of many individuals. People who had been displaced from their homes during war-time and lacked basic needs such as shelter, food, and income opportunities received assistance through these programs. During post-war times, these programs helped individuals establish new ways of life and helped create better opportunities in our democratic system. After all my years of work, I have a great sense of satisfaction of having helped improve our country in some way.
Learning, and at the same time, being able to mentor men and women in the field of international assistance has been an experience of which I am proud; because transparent and well-managed programs produce better results.
My work ethic has always been to achieve the highest quality outcome on every task – big or small – with hard work and attention to detail. I have tried to instill this work ethic on everyone I have worked with by always setting high expectations and by working side by side with them.
I am proud of having influenced younger generations to work hard and always strive to achieve the best possible results.
Q: Who or what inspires you to keep pushing for positive change?
A: Children and future generations are my inspiration, since they are the ones who will benefit from any positive changes in their environment and country.