Making Their Voices Heard
Florence Larkin and Sara Torres
Prince Edward Island is best known for potatoes, sandy beaches
and Anne of Green Gables. But it is much less known for the developments
in international solidarity work that have taken place there in
the past few years. A network of Islanders concerned about developments
in Central America has grown through the early ’80s, and has, by
now, achieved a profile in PEI that is the envy of similar groups
in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
One of the most dynamic of these organizations is the Island Branch
of Friends of AMES (Asocacion de Mujeres de El Salvador),
the principal women’s association of El Salvador. Formed in March
1985, the Island Branch has seen a slow but steady increase in membership.
Dedicated to making Islanders more aware of the political and economic
situation in El Salvador, the Friends of AMES have developed an
Education Program comprised of a short drama, a slide presentation,
a map demonstration, pictures and a question and answer session.
Many groups across the Island have viewed the Program and the Island
Branch hopes to gain an even wider audience for it in the coming
Already this year the Island Branch has participated in two international
campaigns. The first of these was the 1986 Children–to–Children’s
Campaign. In a country where the death rate for those less than
five years of age is 50%, primarily due to malnourishment and other
preventable problems, the plight of children cries out for international
action and attention. The Campaign was aimed at providing Salvadoran
children in rural areas, and young refugees outside the country,
with proper daycare, integrating child care, nutrition and education.
The Island Branch also participated in a second international campaign
this spring. The Mothers’ Day Campaign, launched by Salvadoran women,
aimed at having May 10 (Mothers’ Day in El Salvador) declared as
a day of International Solidarity with Salvadoran women. Special
emphasis was placed on the problems of mothers whose children have
gone missing during the turmoil that has wracked the country over
the past decade.
The international community was asked to support the campaign by
sending telegrams, letters and petitions to El Salvador’s President,
Napoleon Duarte, protesting the human rights violations, imprisonments,
tortures, rapes and kidnappings that are ram–pant in the country;
and to encourage him to re–open dialogue with the opposition FMLN/FDR,
in the hope of bringing about a peaceful solution to the seven–year–old
Inside El Salvador, May 10 was marked by a large demonstration —
550 women, members of the Committee of Mothers and Relatives of
the Assassinated, Disappeared and Political Prisoners, dressed in
black for mourning, took over the main streets of the capital, San
Salvador. Also marching were a number of women representing Friends
of AMES in both Canada and the United States. A mass was held to
honour the countless mothers killed by government troops, and a
political–cultural rally was staged in a city park. During the march
women’s activist Laura Pinto appeared, released only the day before
the rally by the authorities after three days of torture and rape.
The government had hoped, vainly, that her release would intimidate
the women, and prevent the march itself.
Laura Pinto toured Canada in 1983, giving testimony to the fight
for justice in El Salvador. To many Island women she is more than
just a name and the brutal treatment she has received has had a
large impact on them. Shortly after the May 10 march Pinto was again
taken into custody and, to date, her whereabouts are still unknown.
As the Island Branch’s contribution to the Mother’s Day Campaign,
a petition signed by Islanders was sent to President Duarte, several
women’s organizations sent letters of support to the Salvadoran
women and money was raised to help pay for an advertisement, protesting
government policies, that was placed in one of El Salvador’s largest
newspapers. The Mothers’ Day Campaign seems to have had some effect.
Their efforts, and those of other popular organizations in El Salvador,
have pressured the government into dialogue: a series of negotiations
is now taking place between government and opposition forces, following
a 19–month hiatus that had. been brought about by the government
The Island Branch of Friends of AMES has more activities planned
for the coming year. A Women–to–Women Outreach Program will be established
to gather, distribute and share information about women in all developing
countries. This program will be designed to establish links and
common understanding between Island and Third World women.
As well, a Women’s Health Education Campaign will be sponsored in
the fall. A program to educate women In El Salvador in basic health
care and nutrition will be conducted. Internationally, and on the
Island, funds will be raised to send health care items, which are
prohibitively expensive in El Salvador, to Salvadoran women. Plans
are also afoot in the Island Branch to sponsor a tour of a Canadian
woman recently returned from a trip to El Salvador.
Women formed the Island Branch of Friends of AMES because of their
belief in the popular struggles in El Salvador. They have made their
voices heard. Theirs, and the voices of others in the region, can
only hasten the day when dignity and peace will come to El Salvador.
Those interested in the activities of the Island Branch of Friends
of AMES can write to them at 81 Prince Street, Charlottetown. PEI.
CIA 4R3, or telephone (902) 492–3790.
Published in the Connexions Digest, Volume 11, Number 1, Spring