"We must change these structures of patriarchy and machismo," candidate Sanchez Ceren

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Thousands of women members of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party filled the Central American Pavilion at San Salvador’s Convention Center on Sunday, September 23 to hear what the current Vice-President and FMLN nominee for the 2014 presidential elections, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, planned to offer the nation’s women. Some had gotten up as early as 3 AM to make the trip to the capital.

Over the past few weeks, Sánchez Cerén has held gatherings with different sectors of the FMLN’s membership. Taking the podium at Sunday’s event, he looked out at the crowd and said, “I have no words…I am impressed to see thousands and thousands of women who have opened their hearts to the FMLN and to assuring a victory in 2014.” The massive turnout, far surpassing events with other sectors, is a testament to the organizing power of the FMLN National Women’s Secretariat.

During his speech, Sánchez Cerén spoke about the gender gap in healthcare, education, and employment, asserting that “we must change these structures of patriarchy and machismo; profound structural changes are needed.” He also mentioned how the FMLN is currently the only party with internal policies to promote the political participation of women, who make up 53% of the population; FMLN statutes require that 35% of their internal elected posts as well as 35% of their candidates for public office are women and FMLN legislative representatives have presented a Political Party Law that includes similar policies and would apply to all political parties.

In addition to highlighting important legislation the FMLN has promoted alongside the country’s feminist organizations to fight violence against women, the Vice-President discussed the positive impacts that the current administration’s social programs have had on women: expanded pre-natal coverage through the new Community Health Teams, the inclusion of many women who were denied education as children in community-based adult literacy circles, and the financial support received by tens of thousands of single mothers through the Temporary Income Support System (PATI). “That’s why it is important to continue this process of change,” he said, “If ARENA returns to power, injustice returns.” His remarks were peppered throughout the course of the speech with cheers from the crowd.

Sánchez Cerén announced plans to carry out a national consultation, meeting with different sectors of Salvadoran society to hear their proposals and concerns in order to construct his campaign platform, and declared that he wanted women to lead this process.

In addition to the presidential hopeful, important women leaders of the FMLN addressed the crowd. The head of the FMLN legislative group, Norma Guevara, called on the women gathered to combat the right-wing’s smear campaign of the Vice-President by talking to their friends, family, and neighbors, and “speaking the truth about Salvador [Sánchez Cerén].”

from left: Lilian Coto, Secretary of the FMLN National Women's Secretariat; Margarita Villalta de Sánchez, wife of the FMLN candidate; Vice-President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, FMLN 2014 presidential candidate; Violeta Menjívar, FMLN Adjunct Secretary and Viceminister of Health; and Norma Guevara, head of FMLN legislative group.

Lilian Coto, Secretary of the FMLN’s National Women’s Secretariat, called on the women present to guarantee the 2014 victory by “convincing everyone you know that the only way for these positive changes we have seen to continue is if the FMLN continues governing.”

Events like this one are setting the foundations of FMLN internal organizing to carry forward the 2014 presidential electoral campaign. The women cadres at this gathering along with the rest of the FMLN’s grassroots base and leadership will take on the labor of door-to-door visits and the one-on-one campaign style that has grown the party’s electoral support in every election.

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