This is taken from a series of articles by Patrice Flynn (a member of the SEW board from 2003 - 2014) based on her visits to SEW projects in May and June of 2011. This is also a separate page on our site that you can find here.
Since 2003, SEW has been engaged in microenterprise development in El Salvador to enable women to start businesses, earn a little money, and care for their children with dignity. Dreams are being realized: women are developing valuable skills, running small businesses, selling homemade products, earning a profit, and gaining respect in the community! SEW is a good news story.
Why is SEW so successful? Below are some of the many reasons.
Reason #1: Partnership with the CIS
Success rests in large measure on the unique collaboration between SEW and CIS (Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad), an NGO that has become a trusted gathering place for community organizers who work together to analyze political, social and economic conditions in the country, promote peace- building and cultural sensitivity, facilitate training sessions, teach/learn Spanish and English, observe national elections, promote SEW businesses, and much more. Leslie Schuld, the CIS director since 1993, is a beloved community leader.
Staff members at the CIS know the reality on-the-ground and can indicate when and where women are ready to initiate a new business. The US-based SEW staff and board rely upon the experience and credibility of the CIS staff in an effort to demonstrate the kind of partnership we see is necessary to help people in the developing world realize their aspirations.
Reason #2: The Promoters
A second key to success is the work of the three SEW/CIS promoters who embody solidarity in their collaborative efforts to educate, empower, and organize small groups of Salvadoran women. Despite the discomforts of blistering heat, amoebas, bumpy roads, poor nutrition, personal violence, sick children, non-potable water, and deep poverty, these women return time and again to SEW businesses to encourage women to stick together and form healthy partnerships that can lead to the establishment—poco a poco—of small businesses that are profitable and self-fulfilling.
Reason #3: Community organization precedes small business development
The SEW model is also premised on the idea that community organization precedes small business development. In contrast to the free market economic myth that people are discrete, individual entities that compete with one another, we believe that human beings are social creatures who are programmed to cooperate with one another when the situations are right. Hence, the group is the unit of analysis for our work to help Salvadorans develop their potential. Often years of community organizing transpires before a group emerges in the community who sees the potential for women's economic involvement.
Reason #4: Your support and encouragement
SEW's ability to reach out in meaningful ways is dependent upon the generous contributions of all the people, community groups, churches, foundations, and volunteers who support SEW, understand what it takes to help lift others out of poverty, and spread the good news. These are powerful gifts, which truly help those in need.
The Salvadoran women repeatedly express their gratitude and the new realities that SEW and CIS have brought about: “Sometimes I look around and ask, 'Did we really do this?' Thanks to God, I feel happy now.” “You've given us an opportunity for a job . . . it has had a big effect on my family.” “Some of the young women wondered what they'd do when they finished school. Now they see some possibilities.”