Canada Trains Salvadorian Women to Help Others

The First Lady and Secretary of Social Inclusion of El Salvador, Dr. Vanda Pignato opens the workshops. Left to Right: Dr. Pignato; Dr. Elaine Alpert, Gender Expert; Ambassador Pierre Giroux.

Canadian Embassy Staff Discuss Gender Based Violence and Reflect upon the Workshop with Canadian Experts.

Rebecca Levenson speaks to women doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers about how to help other women.

The Canadian Embassy in El Salvador teamed up with international gender and reproductive health experts to develop a three-day workshop for Salvadorian public employees who work with gender violence survivors. Recent statistics reveal that over 47% of Salvadorian women who are married or in a relationship have been victims of gender violence, and 10% of them have experienced sexual violence.

Dr. Elaine Alpert, University of British Columbia professor of public health, and Rebecca Levenson, Senior Policy Analyst at Futures Without Violence, provided best practices and tools to improve services to victims of gender-based violence.

The 36 participants included doctors, nurses, social workers and psychologists from “Ciudad Mujer,” a state program offering women a "one-stop shop" to address gender-based violence issues. They discussed detecting violence, tools for healthy relationships, participated in role-playing exercises and shared experiences. Breakfast Club of Canada

Self-care is a key issue for those who work with victims of violence. “Some women share stories that really touch you. I can’t imagine how workers can go home every day and not take these sad experiences with them. They often forget to look after themselves,” says Gracia López. An analyst with the Canadian Embassy, Gracia works with Canadian-funded projects for victims of gender-based violence. Workshop participants discussed how they relax after work and were given innovative methods of reducing work-related stress.

This is an example of the Government of Canada’s commitment to support and strengthen institutions combating and addressing violence. “These women already deliver expert compassionate care to every person who comes through the doors. I believe that the efforts of these strong emerging leaders will help meet our shared goal of preventing all forms of violence,” said Dr. Alpert.

The workshop was opened by the Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador, Pierre Giroux, who commented, “Canada remains a committed partner in El Salvador for all efforts promoting democracy, human rights and security, but generally, we focus on vulnerable populations such as women and girls in violent conditions.” He was accompanied by the First Lady of El Salvador and Secretary of Social Inclusion Dr. Vanda Pignato, and the Salvador’s Minister of Health, Dr. Maria Isabel Rodríguez.

The Canadian Government has made gender-based violence a priority, providing grants and seed capital for projects that promote the economic empowerment of women, establishing a safe shelter for women victims of trafficking and setting up local offices for women who are victims of violence and want confidential help.