Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Marce, El Salvador


“I think hopelessness is the only thing we cannot afford. And that we have to fight for what we think is right, that we have to fight for what we believe is right and that we are not alone, that there are many out there, that there are many fighting and that what they call madness, in the end it brings many fruits and that brings a lot of freedom and that brings a lot of autonomy and that is transformed in the end into the happiness of each one and that there is nothing happier than being who we want to be.”

Marce’s Story

Marcela is from a territory called Santo Tomás, a small and semi-rural municipality from San Salvador where there still are harvesting and cropping practices for personal consumption.  During her childhood, she grew up with her mom and dad,  and she shared: “They were very traditional in what they taught us.” Although, when she was 6, her mother divorced her father because of domestic violence. From a young age, she learned to live free of other kinds of violence. Marcela and her mother cared for and protected each other. Having a safe home meant more expenses. To support her mother in providing for the family, Marcela began to take care of her younger sister. She changed her school schedule to attend school during the afternoons, which did not allow her to have time to play with other kids. Marcela shared: “you can’t always resist in a free,  autonomous, and happy way. Sometimes you have to assume certain costs that are not easy.”

Marcela expressed that her resistance is a way of life, of not going with the flow. It is about finding and defining yourself while living the way you want. It is about going against the many orders and everything they told you that you couldn’t achieve, and going for the things that they denied you. Marcela holds so much resilience. She smiles and takes advantage of the lessons presented by life. Even Though she had so much responsibility as a girl and tenager, she revindicates struggles by visibilising what is wrong and fighting everyday to create change.

Marcela’s mother has played a crucial role in her life and is one of her greatest inspirations and examples. She led community organising processes and, later on, was part of feminist movements and exposed Marcela and her sister to these efforts. This was a life-changer for them because it allowed them to learn different ways to approach life. An example of these life lessons includes when her mother worked at an organisation that supported women factory workers organising efforts. She would bring Marcela and her sisters because she didn’t have someone to care for them.  Marcela remembers that while her sisters were playing, she stayed at the meeting because she liked to listen to the stories. Without even noticing it, she would become another participant. She remembers how hard this was because people wouldn’t recognise her experiences and life lessons. She noticed that her voice would not be taken as seriously as the adults, and that would be a conflict for her because she did not feel welcomed there.

To Marcela, adultism and machismo became key questions for her as she began her organising efforts. After working with the women factory workers, she connected with a leftist political party in her Municipality.  During that time, she felt sexualised, and recognised how women were disrespected and dismissed. As she describes: “it was there where I learned that, as women, we are something else. To the men we are not women, we are not humans, we do not have rights, we are just an object.”

Sexual harassment was such a big issue that it made her move out of those spaces and get involved in youth spaces focused on sexual and reproductive rights. In these new spaces, she learned about different kinds of rights and was able to recognise that sexual harassment was an aggression. Being in these spaces made her feel accompanied and part of something bigger than herself. In the women’s space, they talked about sexual and reproductive health, pregnancy prevention, and access to legal pregnancy interruption. That’s how the Ameyalli Young Feminist Association emerged, an organisation that she is a part of. In the beginning, the co-founders, 25 young girls, met at the central plaza and on some sidewalks by a bus stop.

Fortunately, in 2009, the Central American Women’s Fund reached out to them to offer funding support. Marcela remembers this situation and all the difficulties they faced as all the members were under 18 years old and they needed to open a bank account, in addition to developing a project proposal which they had never done before. FCAM provided accompaniment by supporting to open the bank account and developing the project proposal. They successfully received FCAM’s funding and continue to receive their support. The work done by Marce and her partners has been very diverse. From workshops for teenagers at educational centres, coordination of students meetings, forums with teachers from different academic centres at their Municipality, collaboration in networks such as the Youth Regional Network, Redlac, and the formation of the National Network Coincidir, a network focused on sexual and reproductive rights.

In Santo Tomas, most people know Marcela and her family. They are recognised organisers that people can count on. In 2015, people from the neighbouring community came looking for them to solicit their support due to construction in a residential zone in their community. Without hesitation, Marcela’s family got involved to support the community in the defense of their territory and rights. However, this had consequences which included lawsuits, death threats, and even health problems for Marce’s mother. Marcela decided to work harder to diminish her mother’s economic burden and help out with her sister’s expenses.

Since 2019, Marcela began to focus more on caring for herself, connecting more with what she wants, and who she wants to be. This has been supported by women’s networks which have played a significant role in her life. With women’s networks, she can feel free with no need to hide or feel guilty due to emotions,  thoughts, feelings, needs, or conditions. She lives with three women that she loves: two friends and her girlfriend.  She prioritises her well-being and understands that there isn’t a point for the  revolution if we can’t dance.