Diega Membreño and Emilia Leiva grew up in the rural area of one of the poorest departments struck by the Salvadoran civil war of the 80's: Cabañas.
Diega, 62, who lives in the municipality of Guacotecti, never learned to read or write. At only eight years of age she began to work for the owner of a hacienda. Emilia, 40, grew up in a humble family of peasants in the municipality of Victoria; with the outbreak of the armed conflict, she dropped out of school in sixth grade to fight with the guerrillas. Years later, forced by poverty and to help her five children, she earned her income from selling tamales and from collecting cans and bottles out of the rubbish to sell them to recycling companies.
They met two years ago as beneficiaries of the garment-making course from the Vocational Institute of the General Seamstresses Union. At first Diega was discouraged by the difficulty of not knowing how to read. However, the trainers encouraged her to continue and she was able to reach the same level as others. Emilia had to take care of her one-year-old daughter but she decided to attend classes and bring the little girl.
All project beneficiaries acquired knowledge on labour law, entrepreneurship, and women's rights. "It was very helpful to us to identify the forms of violence we are exposed to, in order to be able to help those who suffer from it," explains Diega.
After the training process, accompaniment and seed capital were provided, benefitting both of them through creating a Productive Unit, which is based in Diega's home.
With the machines and necessary material to begin producing, they began making dresses, blankets, bedspreads, pillows, tablecloths, men's underwear, aprons and skirts. They enjoy their activities in the six hours a day they work from Monday to Friday, and on weekends they leave their threads and needles to go to the Sensuntepeque market to sell their creations. "We are quite successful in sales and there are also people who place orders with us without even knowing us because they saw some garment that they liked from another buyer and ask for our contact information," says Emilia. A few days ago began to take orders from some companies.
After a long time of living off just $1 a day each, now the unit generates an income of about $200 a month between the two.