In order to understand the work that SEW does, it is important to understand the context in which SEW women live and work. El Salvador is a country of 6,218,000 people. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere.
El Salvador has an extremely high emigration rate. Since the beginning of the civil war, over a million people have migrated. This pattern continued even after the war ended; since 1992, the emigration rate has remained extremely high. In fact, about 20% of El Salvador’s GDP comes from remittances that emigrants send to their families back home.
SEW mainly works with women who live in rural areas but the country is rapidly urbanizing. The urban population makes up about 68% of the total population and there is a 1.35% annual rate of urbanization. Interestingly, this is about the same rate as the US.
According to Index Mundi, though El Salvador’s birth rate is relatively high (about 17 births per 1,000 people), the increased use of family planning has substantially lowered El Salvador's fertility rate, “from approximately 6 children per woman in the 1970s to replacement level today.” Though female sterilization is the most common method of contraception, the use of injectable contraceptives is growing.
Infant mortality is high: 18 deaths per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality rate is also high: 81 deaths per 100,000 live births (compared to 21 deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States). These are two indicators of a country’s health and, though both are improving year by year, they still remain at alarmingly high levels. There are still huge disparities between the health and poverty levels of the rural populations and urban populations.
The racial politics of El Salvador are also extremely distinct. About 80% of the population identifies as mestizo, meaning “of mixed European and indigenous/African ancestry.” About 12% identify as white. The fully indigenous population hovers around 1%.
These are only a few of the fascinating facts about El Salvador’s demographics. For more info, check out this great website.