We spoke to Rubidia Cornejo – President of the Association of Blind Women in El Salvador (AMUCES) and named in One World Action’s list of One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women who Change the World – about the work of AMUCES and the obstacles faced by blind women living in El Salvador.
What does AMUCES do?
We help blind women in El Salvador exercise and demand their rights.
Blind women in El Salvador have specific needs. The biggest problem for people living with disabilities in El Salvador – especially in rural areas – is unemployment and a lack of resources. So these are the women that AMUCES tries to target. Many of the blind women we work with may have been taken out of school and have no way of earning an income. These women first need to have their confidence built up, and then need training so that they are able to organise themselves.
Giving blind women the opportunity to earn a salary is a priority for AMUCES – without it the women cannot take control of their lives.
How long has AMUCES been running?
We are quite young but are growing all the time – AMUCES has been running since 2006. I was always keen to focus on blind women and we took a lot of inspiration at the time from strong women’s organisations in El Salvador such as Las Melidas and Las Dignas.
Which women have inspired you?
Internationally I have always found Hillary Clinton an inspiration, but here in El Salvador Eileen Giron has always been an inspiration to me because of her great leadership. I think it is important that women, including women with disabilities, have others around them who they can look up to.
How long have you been working for the rights of blind people?
I became a member of ASCES in 1989 but before that I was involved in other organisations. I was always interested in the subject of blind people’s rights and have been involved in associations and organisations since I was at university. When I considered the situation of blind people in El Salvador it was obvious that massive changes needed to take place – and still do!
What are you most proud of since being with AMUCES?
In just a few years we have become recognised within El Salvador and Latin America and have managed to include the opinion of blind women in national debates.
How can people learn more or help with the work you do?
People can find out more by going to the website for the Association of Blind People in El Salvador (ASCES) – our sister organisation. AMUCES doesn’t have a website yet.
There are still huge amounts of work to be done in El Salvador to ensure blind people – in particular blind women – enjoy their rights as equal citizens. The main problem we face is getting funding for our advocacy work. This is increasingly difficult because international cooperation is being pulled out of Central America all the time. Being classed as ‘middle-income’ countries has not helped.
Other than getting funding, what is the biggest obstacle you face?
The biggest practical obstacle is delinquency. I live a long way from the office outside of the capital San Salvador and rely on public transport to get into work everyday. But because of crime and gangs extorting bus drivers, buses are often robbed, frequently cancelled, and always stop early in the evening. Delinquency is increasing in El Salvador and it can be very dangerous to make long journeys alone late at night, especially for blind woman.
Are you working with blind women? What are the biggest obstacles where you live and work? Tell us by leaving a comment below.