New partnership with UN Women to support women farmers in El Salvador

Monday, July 26, 2021. Fundación Calleja and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN), in the presence of the Ambassador of Italy, have signed a memorandum of understanding today in order to further actions towards promoting women’s entrepreneurship, push forward, and also coordinate efforts to contribute to education and training for employability and agricultural entrepreneurship.

It all kicked off with a pilot action in support of a group of women farmers in the upper area of Chalatenango, within the framework of the Women, Local Economy and Territories Economy (WLEaT or MELYT in Spanish) program by UN Women, funded by the Government of Italy, which supports the consolidation and expansion of territorial service platforms for women’s entrepreneurship.

“Italy, through its Development Cooperation efforts, has always paid special attention to gender issues and firmly believes that the empowerment of women, especially in rural areas, is the opportunity to decrease multiple negative effects, such as poverty, which is closely linked to the irregular migration phenomenon. In my travels around this beautiful country to learn about its reality, I have received confirmation of the great potential it harbors and have been able to appreciate, above all things, the tireless work of women whom, despite the spread of COVID, through their generosity, efficiency and humility, have continued to successfully develop their activities, particularly in the agrifood industry. Therefore, I firmly believe that investing in the empowerment of Salvadoran women is, and will always be, a winning investment. This brave and visionary project confirms my country’s commitment to its willingness to ensure that women worldwide have equal access to the job market, followed by higher quality employment rates and the end to gender-based pay gaps”, stated Edoardo Pucci, Ambassador of Italy in El Salvador

Through the signing of this document, not only is the alliance between these institutions solidified, but also key stakeholders in this process are included, such as Super Selectos and Acceso, who have established a working relationship for 10 years with the purpose of strengthening small producers that make up the Cultivando Oportunidades (Cultivating Opportunities) program.

“Through this alliance, the processes of women’s empowerment and gender equality will be bolstered with various strategic actions such as the pilot project that we are starting today with agricultural entrepreneurs, vegetable producers and social business Acceso, who will assist them throughout the production process to guarantee high quality all the way up to the commercialization of their products, but also in order to adopt the principles for Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEPS), which are a set of tenets that offer guidance to companies on how to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in the workplace, the market and the community by opening up spaces for dialog with the private sector regarding Economic Empowerment and gender-sensitive shopping. In addition, the aim is to collaborate for the creation of multisector national coalitions for the economic empowerment of women and social innovation,” posited Ana Elena Badílla, UN Women country representative.

In El Salvador, more than 52.9% of the population are women, who face multiple difficulties to get ahead, especially in rural areas, where oftentimes they are seen only as housewives, despite being actual agricultural producers, educators and organizers of their communities, as well as mothers, who ensure a better future for their children.

In the country, 38.3% of the population is based in rural areas, of which 50% are women, with few of them actively participating in the labor market, which is one of the issues compounding the wage gap. It has been estimated that, on average, female farmers currently earn a monthly income of $152.60, an amount so low that it fails to cover their basic needs, which is why the work being coordinated between institutions such as those engaged by this alliance becomes so important.

This inter-institutional partnership will benefit 15 women farmers from the upper area of Chalatenango, who will receive training and technical assistance, both face-to-face and online, in the production and marketing process, in addition to receiving materials, infrastructure and supplies for the integration of basic technology to guarantee the quality of their crops, through which they will be able to improve their incomes. Furthermore, participants will be provided with transportation to deliver their production to the processing centers, all of which will be supported by a secure market and fair payments for their crops, where Super Selectos, through its Cultivating Opportunities program, will act as the key driver. The timeframe of this memorandum is 3 years, with a view to an extension in order to benefit more women.

“Currently, the average income of a women farmer in our country is a little over $150.00, which does not cover their most basic needs or those of their families, especially when they are the head of their household; that is why we, Fundación Calleja, UN Women and the Italian Cooperation Agency, are joining forces along with our strategic allies, namely Super Selectos and Acceso. Together, we seek to promote the economic empowerment and development of women in the country, especially through actions that promote entrepreneurship, which undoubtedly contributes to reducing the gender gap. Only united, as Salvadorans, can we ever move forward”, declares Carlos Calleja, President of Fundación Calleja and Vice President of Super Selectos.

Fundación Calleja is the social arm of Súper Selectos, a 100% Salvadoran supermarket chain, which, for 10 years, has been rolling out its support program for national farmers, known as “Cultivating Opportunities”, which contributes to the development of more than 2,000 domestic producers, from whom, during 2020, we purchased upwards of $13 million were carried out.

In search of supporting more producers, Súper Selectos and Acceso started a business relationship 7 years ago, looking to generate social impact and rural development in the target communities, thus turning such communities into the number one supplier of the supermarket. Currently, Acceso works hand in hand with more than a thousand small farmers, fishermen and aquaculture producers, thereby strengthening these three productive areas, whilst creating employment opportunities and guaranteeing the improvement of living conditions for all participants.

“Women play a fundamental role in agriculture, and we are proud to support them as Acceso with opportunities to improve their production and commercialization through our social enterprise. We are grateful to UN Women, the Government of Italy through its Development Cooperation, Fundación Calleja and Super Selectos for this alliance and their commitment to rural women and their families,” said Andres Baiza, managing director of Acceso El Salvador.

Women play a fundamental role in agriculture, and we are proud to support them as Acceso with opportunities to improve their production and commercialization through our social enterprise
– Andres Baiza, Managing Director of Acceso El Salvador